Kizzire's slow start in golf is picking up speed
HONOLULU (AP) Patton Kizzire never lost his cool even in the midst of a wild week on Oahu he won't soon forget.
He woke up Saturday morning to a push alert about a ballistic missile strike on Hawaii that turned out to be a false alarm.
Kizzire received a text the next morning from the PGA Tour about another strike, this one real, of the labor variety. The camera and audio production crew for Golf Channel walked off the job during the final round of the Sony Open when contract negotiations stalled. While it didn't affect anyone's game, it was no less strange to see so many TV towers that were vacant during the final round at Waialae Country Club.
If that wasn't enough, the caddie of fellow Auburn alum Blayne Barber collapsed and was in critical condition with bleeding and swelling in his brain.
So it was only fitting that the Sony Open concluded Sunday with the longest playoff in its 53-year history, ending along the shores of the Pacific Ocean on the par-3 17th hole when Kizzire made par to outlast James Hahn on the sixth extra hole.
''It has been a peculiar week,'' Kizzire said. ''We have a great friend that is in critical condition - our prayers to him and his family,'' he said. ''The missile threat was wild, and the camera strike was unexpected, as well. So among all that, I was able to focus on playing golf. And I was glad to get the win.''
For a guy who took longer than he wanted to get on the PGA Tour, he now can't seem to slow down.
Kizzire became the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season. He also won the OHL Classic in Mexico in a head-to-head battle with Rickie Fowler. The Sony Open was a four-man battle along the back nine, eventually whittled down to Kizzire and Hahn.
They played the par-5 18th hole four times and the 17th hole twice.
Kizzire nearly didn't make it beyond the first extra hole when he hit a chip shot heavy and it didn't clear the bunker. But he made par from 7 feet, and Hahn missed a 10-foot birdie putt. Kizzire had to make another putt from that length for birdie on the next hole to extend the playoff. Hahn missed a 6-footer for birdie for the win on the fifth extra hole.
Kizzire finally won when Hahn, who closed with an 8-under 62 to get into playoff, took three putts from off the 17th green for a bogey.
If it was stressful, Kizzire didn't show it. His demeanor, the very image of southern comfort, didn't change whether he was chipping in for eagle on the 10th hole of regulation on his way to a 68 or whether he was standing on the 18th green three times watching Hahn stand over a putt for the win.
Don't be fooled.
He is churning on the inside, and it's a feeling that drives him.
''I love trying to get better and putting myself in uncomfortable spots,'' Kizzire said. ''That's all I want to do is just be somewhere that I've never been, because that gets me uncomfortable. That's when I know I'm doing something right.''
It took him longer than he might have expected to get to the PGA Tour. He graduated from Auburn in 2008 and he was 29 when he finally reached the PGA Tour in the fall of 2015 after winning the Web.com Tour money title.
He was No. 236 in the world when he won in Mexico. He was No. 105 in the world when he arrived at the Sony Open. Now he's up to No. 54, and his rise is even more notable in the FedEx Cup. Not only is back to No. 1, with two victories this early in the season Kizzire is virtually assured of getting to the Tour Championship in August at East Lake. The points he has accrued in seven events would be equal to 38th in the final standings last year.
''One win doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot,'' Kizzire said. ''Two means a little more, and three is even better. I'm always looking for the next one.''
The rest of the year will determine how long this lasts.
Kizzire's two victories were not against the strongest fields, although the Sony Open included Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Winning is winning, though, and only six players won multiple times last season - Thomas, Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele and Marc Leishman. All of the were in the top eight of the FedEx Cup at the end.
He had the trophy at his side, a lei around his neck and the smell of champagne on his clothes. The bubbly came from Chris Kirk, a close friend from Sea Island on the Georgia coast, who came out to the 18th green in regulation and stayed an extra hour.
''I made everybody wait too long,'' Kizzire said. ''But it's worth it.''