Loran Smith: Consistent Kisner still atop Open leaderboard

CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND – If consistency is to be valued—even in the face of a double bogey at the final hole—Kevin Kisner has to be emotionally uplifted when he awakens today in Carnoustie, Scotland, where there is a golf history that overwhelms but has always been subordinated to the glory of St. Andrews which is two dozen miles east of here.

As predicted, the rains came Friday, which meant that the locals were expressing grateful appreciation in that there has been very little precipitation since early May which trumps the need to accommodate the golfers and golf fans at Carnoustie, which in its days of yore sent more golfers to America and other places than any settlement in Scotland: more than 300 around the world, roughly 200 to America.

This is where the Maidens and Smiths brought about more influence on the game than the rest of Scotland put together, earning unending glory in America which, early on, couldn’t get enough of the game.

You know the name Stewart Maiden, who taught none other than Bobby Jones to play the game at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. He came from Carnoustie. Then there were the McDonald Smiths who could teach, compete and win like no other clan to cross the Atlantic. They made golf history from the beginning.

Across the road (Links Parade) from the Carnoustie Golf Club, making history remains in the forefront of Kevin Kisner’s mind, maintaining a dream of winning the championship he grew up watching with his dad in Aiken, South Carolina, just beyond the Savannah River.

Early morning signaled that the conditions would be different. Kisner said after the first round that if the rains came as expected that the golf course probably wouldn’t play that much differently. However, the wet conditions took away an upstart player reaching for his driver and gun-slinging for a record round.

Keenly disappointed, Kisner, nonetheless took a que sera stance when it was over. He was still under par for the day, he was under par for the tournament and would be teeing off with the leaders in the third round. He has had only one bad hole in 36. At the halfway point he had made nine birdies (and one eagle); three bogeys and the one double. Scoring consistency such as that has won a lot of Opens in the past.

However, he realizes that he has to maintain an even higher level of consistency to win the 147th Open. His view is that he cannot let one unfortunate result bring about negative thinking—such as the bad break on his second shot at the final hole.

When his caddie told him he needed to hit it 150 yards to clear the burn from the fairway, he chose an eight iron with extreme confidence. His ball came to rest on a patch of green grass, not the familiar brown grass of the rest of the week. He came up with something of a flyer and the ball wound up in the water. A penalty shot resulted in a double bogey, his first of the tournament.

In the press conference that followed, he was his usual light hearted and philosophical self, delighting the media with funny quip—nonchalant verbiage that suggests that he never takes himself seriously, unless he is on the golf course.

He came to Carnoustie early to work on his game and, for the most part, things have been positive. History reminds us that leading early brings no guarantees, but Kisner is buoyed by the fact that he has hit no really bad shots, even the eight iron at the final hole.

Consistency has been a companion and more of the same will be required if he is to claim the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon. The early forecast for the third round was for sunny spells during the afternoon. “Winds,” according to a press bulletin, “remain light.”

With a dozen players in contention, it is anybody’s tournament. Kisner has a high regard for the competition. It is worth noting, too, that he has a high regard for his game. That is based on confidence, not arrogance.

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