AUSTIN, Texas — This time, Kevin Kisner went one better.
The scrappy Georgia Bulldog toppled Matt Kuchar, 3 and 2, to win the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on a Sunday that started in bitter cold and closed in radiant sunshine.
Last year Kisner lost in the final to Bubba Watson, clearly running out of gas against the big-hitting lefty in the 7-and-6 rout. But in this year’s final, Kisner, the 48th seed, grabbed the lead with a birdie on the first from 11 feet and never trailed in the match. He closed it out with a 20-foot birdie on the 16th.
“I was thinking out there it might be the hardest (tournament to win) just because you have the physical aspect more than any other week,” Kisner said. “It was grueling, definitely with the winds, the temperature today. Overall it was a long week, but I prevailed and I’m a world golf champion.”
Kuchar, who was trying to win his 10th PGA Tour title, including the Mayakoba Golf Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii this season, beat Tyrrell Hatton in the Sweet 16, Sergio Garcia in the quarterfinals and Lucas Bjerregaard in the semifinals. But Kuchar, the 23rd seed, didn’t have an answer for Kisner.
“It’s tough to maintain the high level of play the entire tournament,” Kuchar said. “You hope to do it and I feel like I’ve kind of built a game that I could rely on playing some good, steady golf. But I gave too many holes away.
“It’s one of the things I pride myself on is not ever giving holes away. I knew against Kisner I couldn’t do it, and he just plodded along and played good, steady golf, and let me make mistakes. And that was good playing by Kevin.”
Kisner became the first to win the Match Play after losing his first match since the tournament moved to pool play in 2015.
Kisner, who played 120 holes in seven matches, lost to Ian Poulter but rebounded to beat Tony Finau and Keith Mitchell to set up a playoff with Poulter to advance out of pool play. Kisner won on the third hole with a birdie to knock Poulter out of the tournament for the second consecutive year (he beat Poulter in the quarters last year).
Kisner then trounced Hao Tong Li, 6 and 5, and Louis Oosthuizen, 2 and 1, to reach the final four.
In Sunday’s semifinals match against Francesco Molinari, Kisner took a 2-up lead after 14, but Molinari won the 16th and 17th to tie the match. On the final hole, Molinari three-putted from 27 feet and Kisner advanced with a par.
GOLFWEEK: News and features from around the links
In the consolation match, Molinari defeated Bjerregaard, 4 and 2. Bjerregaard had defeated his boyhood hero, Tiger Woods, in the quarterfinals.
Last year’s defeat to Watson was a learning experience for Kisner, 35, who won his third PGA Tour title and first since the 2017 Dean & Deluca. Last year he spent far too long on the range pounding golf balls to pass time, and this year he was dead set on getting plenty of rest.
“I learned about preparation. I learned not to get too amped up for that final,” Kisner said. “You still have to come out and play golf. I don’t think either one of us played our best golf. But I drove it great all week.”