CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Green Mile took quite a toll on the final groups coming down the stretch at the PGA Championship on Saturday.
The 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Quail Hollow are regarded as among the hardest three-hole stretch in golf, right up there with the 10th-12th at Augusta National Golf Club and the 8th-10th at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Kevin Kisner was not immune to the trouble.
The Aiken native made a double bogey on the par-4 16th and a bogey on the 18th, both the result of pulled second shots. Kisner did make par on the par-3 17th and will head into Sunday’s final round with a one-shot lead over Chris Stroud and Hideki Matsuyama.
Kisner held a two-shot lead after birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, but he soon ran into trouble after his tee shot found the left rough at 16.
“I had a great lie, thought it was going to be a pretty easy shot,” he said. “I hit it solid and it came out head high and hooking. So I’m not really sure what happened there.”
His ball found the water guarding the green, and after pitching onto the green his putt for bogey hit the back of the cup but didn’t fall.
On 18, Kisner had a 7-iron into the green but fell for the sucker pin that was tucked front and left. His ball caromed off a rock in the stream and settled into a nasty lie left of the green.
“I was disappointed in myself. I did no scouting on that location,” Kisner said. “I never thought they would put (the pin) there. I thought if I hit it out to the right of it, it would come 10 yards off the green off that false front.”
The final three groups Saturday played the Green Mile in a collective 17-over par.
Jason Day tried an ill-advised hook shot from the right rough on the 18th hole and wound up near a grandstand. He walked off with a quadruple-bogey 8.
Hideki Matsuyama, who played in the final group with Kisner and Day, was the rare player who made pars on all three holes of the Green Mile. He said the 18th, which ranked as the toughest, was especially difficult.
“That is a really difficult hole,” Matsuyama said. “I mean, you can end up hitting right like Jason did today and then there is water on the left. So it’s tough all the way around.”
Rickie Fowler was comfortably in the top five for much of the day until he went bogey, double bogey, bogey on the final three holes.
“It’s just a good test. Especially coming down the last three after they give you 14, 15 as birdie opportunities,” Fowler said. “You’ve got to, you can’t limp in. You’ve got to finish it off.”
Kisner said he would use his closing bogey as motivation as he tries to hold on and win his first major championship.
“That puts a little fire in me for (Sunday), so I’m excited about that,” he said.
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or email@example.com.