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August 11, 2017

Kevin Kisner

Charlotte, North Carolina

JOHN DEVER: Welcome back to the 99th PGA Championship from Quail Hollow Club. Pleased to be joined by current leader of the PGA Championship, Kevin Kisner.

Kevin, for the second straight day, you posted a 67, and as I said, he's the leader at 8-under par, 134. Today's round included an eagle on the par 5 seventh, and three birdies which all came on the back side, and he had one bogey.

So Kevin, last night you told us you had to birdie holes 7,8, 14 and 15, and maybe it didn't go according to script but you went 3-under on those four holes. Sufficient for yourself.

KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, those are my holes to score well. If I play them 3-under in the next two days, take that. I'm really excited about how I'm playing, hitting the golf ball. Hitting it in the fairway a lot, which is huge around here.

JOHN DEVER: What course conditions did you see out there today? Were they any different from what you experienced yesterday afternoon?

KEVIN KISNER: If anything, the greens are getting a little firmer, which is pretty incredible. 4-iron on the last hole, went 40 paces from land to finish. So they are extremely firm. You've got to be in the fairway to be able to get it on the green, and who knows, if this rain holds off and doesn't stay around, I can't imagine how much firmer they can get.

Q. Congratulations, you're in great position. Take us inside your mind: 8-under par going into the weekend, particularly on this demanding course, this demanding setup. What's the mind-set, the whole range of emotion, going into the weekend now?
KEVIN KISNER: I'm just excited about the opportunity. I'm really fired up about it the way I'm hitting the golf ball. I haven't hit it this well this whole summer. A lot of averages finishes. When I start hitting it the way I am now, I play well.

So I'm looking forward to the weekend and having an opportunity to keep making birdies and playing well.

Q. Will you be feeling more anxious or nervous tomorrow --
KEVIN KISNER: More anxious than nervous. If we have to tee off at two o'clock, I'll be bored to death by then, ready to go play. I'm sure there will be nerves in there but that's what we play for and that's what we practice for.

Q. You said you saw four birdie holes. Did you see an eagle hole?
KEVIN KISNER: I did; when that thing ripped the flag and went in.

Q. Your game plan this week, when you saw the four birdie holes, was that you and J.T., the first time you walked the golf course, you realized that's the way you wanted to play it?
KEVIN KISNER: That's pretty close to it. Even during the Wells Fargo, that's kind of how I attack it. Obviously the greens aren't as firm during that tournament.

But any time I can get a wedge in my hand or a par 5 that I can reach, I feel like I have to make birdie. Those are the holes here that are allowing me to have that opportunity.

Q. I know your parents grew up in Charlotte. Did you spend much time here growing up? Do you have many ties to Charlotte? And also, I'm curious, you were born Aiken, and basically spent your whole life there. A lot of pro golfers move to Florida. What do you like so much about your hometown?
KEVIN KISNER: I've spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas in Charlotte from childhood to marriage. Been here a ton. Got a lot of ties to Quail Hollow. Brother-in-law's father is a founding member here. He's still a member here. We spent a lot of time in Charlotte; my 93-year-old grandmother still lives here by herself. We're here all the first time, only two hours away.

On the Aiken piece, when I was playing mini-tours and I was broke, that's the only place I could afford to buy a house and I went back there. I just love it. I have a core group of friends that we hang out with that don't pester me about golf and we hang out and have a couple beers on the back porch. That's what I love about it.

Q. Considering the way you have played the last few years, and where your game is, you were not surprised to be in this position; is this where you expect to be at this point in your career?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I've been upset with how I've played in the majors so far in my career. I feel like I have the game to compete in majors and tons of 30th to 40th, 50th-place finishes. That's kind of been our goal for the year. We haven't played well in them yet this year but every year you learn more about the majors and how to approach them.

It's difficult to fly to the British Open and try to figure out how to do your preparation for that. This is probably the easiest one I've had to prep for because I know the golf course so well and I've been up here a lot. I feel real comfortable here and I really like the golf course.

Q. Do you get recognized in airports from time to time, and what sorts of things do people ask you?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I get recognized. I don't wear my Callaway hat through the airport much. People always want to know about golf and -- most of the first time I'm dragging a three-year-old and my wife is walking along with a stroller, so most of the first time people are trying to help us along, get out of their way. Everybody we run into is nice. That's cool. You know, the golf community is a great bunch of people and they are knowledgeable, and that's the best part.

Q. Do people want golf tips from you?
KEVIN KISNER: No, not really. Most of them want me to come play with them somewhere, and I tell them that I don't really play golf on my casual time. But for the right price, I'll come anywhere. (Laughter).

Q. How did you earn the reputation of being such a ferocious competitor?
KEVIN KISNER: I'm not sure. I guess beating up on people on Tuesday.

I've always played other sports throughout my life, and I've never been the biggest guy, so I had to find a way to get things done. That's why I play golf now because I was better than everybody else at golf. I like beating people and I like competing, and that's kind of how I was raised.

Q. Much has been said about your ability to read these greens, in particular, when a lot of other pros are struggling. Do you feel that gives you an edge going into the weekend?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, 100 percent. I've made a ton of great putts for par today, big momentum putts, eight to ten feet. I feel really comfortable on the reads on the greens, and my speed's been great, which is great, holing speed, picking spots out. And have my caddie reading putts this week, and I tell him where I see it, and we're in 100 percent agreement almost every time. That's a lot of confidence right there.

Q. Unlike some of the young players today on TOUR, you actually look like you had to go through the process of learning how to win on TOUR. Looking back on that, what did you learn about how to become a winner and how is that applicable, necessarily, to a major?
KEVIN KISNER: I've kind of processed my whole career in that stage. I've played mini-tours, learned how to win there; played the Web.com Tour, learned how to win there; got to the PGA TOUR, learned how to win there. The next step is competing and winning major championships. I think a big step is just understanding that no lead is safe.

And I think that's one of the biggest things people don't understand is how good guys play coming down the stretch, and you have to continue to make birdies. You can't just expect that somebody is going to hand you the tournament out here.

Q. What do you do in your off time to get away from golf? Or there two or three things you really enjoy doing to get your mind off this?
KEVIN KISNER: I love to just go home and hang out with my buddies in the countries. Go out where there's no cell phone service and spend the afternoon. Love to fish, love to shoot guns, love to hunt, just get away from it. That's my favorite part. I love my core group of friends at home that they don't ask me why I made bogey on the last hole that cost me 20 grand or anything like that. That's why I hang out with them. They are a bunch of good dudes and I'm sure they will be up there having a good time this weekend.

Q. With your connection to this club, is this a major that you had been eyeing for a long time, and if it was, how good does it feel to be performing the way you have so far?
KEVIN KISNER: Well, I've had success at Quail before. I look forward to coming here. Obviously it's close to home and I love the greens. I just wasn't sure what they were going to do with the changes.

So I came up a month ago and played, and it was raining and wet, and I said, man, this place is going to be so long; I don't know how they are going to compete. But it's been drying out and my tee balls are getting some roll and I'm hitting a lot less irons into the greens than I expected. If I can get a 6- or 7-iron in my hand, I like my chances around here.

Q. Rory commented, the course is playing about three strokes more. Sure hasn't been that way for you. Can you comment on that?
KEVIN KISNER: I think 1, 4 and 5 are three shots right there. 1 used to be a 3-wood and a wedge, birdie hole. Then you had 5 that was a birdie hole. Now 4 is a bogey hole and 5 is a good golf hole. So that's three shots right there in the first five holes.

The way I've kind of dissected it is: The first five or six holes, if you can escape those, you can play the next eight and the last three are hold on for dear life.

Q. You mentioned that you played other sports. Which was the best of those, and what was the best you ever did at those other sports, and how does it affect your golf?
KEVIN KISNER: Well, I always loved the team atmosphere. I played basketball and football in ninth grade. Obviously I'm not the biggest guy, so once I learned I could get crushed on the football field, I gave that up.

I was a pretty good passer in basketball, and kind of a competitor in that sport where I could play good defense. But obviously at 5-10, 160 pounds, I'm not going to do anything in that. So my basketball coach and my golf coach, he said, "I think you ought to stick to golf."

Q. You made the point already that it took you awhile to get out here. When did you feel like you did belong? You had a lot of second-place finishes for awhile. When did you feel like you belonged and then you could be a winner out here and win major championships?
KEVIN KISNER: Probably 2013, 2014, when I got back after the Web.com Tour. I never was a great ball-striker. I came out here and saw how well other guys hit it and I was like, I've got no chance the way I'm hitting it.

We went to the drawing board with John Tillery and laid out a plan. I knew if I ever got confident in my ball-striking, I could win, because I'm competitive and I'm pretty good around the greens. Once I started seeing results with the long game, that's when I knew, probably '13, '14, and then I had a great year in '15.

Q. Brooks Koepka gave us great insight. He said when it comes to majors, some players out there over-complicate things and don't keep things simple, which I thought was really kind of taking us inside his approach. Can you give us some similar words of wisdom to sum up your approach to the majors and golf in general?
KEVIN KISNER: At the end of the day, it's just golf, right. I have to hit my tee ball where I'm trying to look, and if I don't, I have to find a way to get the ball in the hole the fastest. I think players spend too much work into figuring out golf courses, instead of just getting the ball in the hole.

If that's more the mind-set, things aren't so hard to look at out there. It's just a game then.

Q. You just played your first major three years ago in North Carolina. Missed the cut at Pinehurst. What have you learned about majors since then, and the next year, you missed a couple cuts, too, other than Chambers. What have you learned since then?
KEVIN KISNER: They are really hard, to start, and they are not a whole lot of fun unless everything is working out for you. We've seen a lot of low scores in majors. There's been a lot of birdies. You've got to realize that guys are making birdies, and the whole mind-set of pars are good is kind of out the window.

You have to be able to attack when you can, is my big deal in majors and you've got to be comfortable putting three and 4- and 5-footers for par on the holes that you can attack and I think that's a big deal in major championships.

JOHN DEVER: Thanks for your time, as always. Good luck this weekend.

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