By Larry Fine
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Kevin Kisner is not known for the length of his drive but he executed his game plan to perfection at the long, rain-softened Quail Hollow layout on Thursday to emerge with a share of the first-round lead at the PGA Championship.
The slightly-built American finished on a high with a magnificent birdie after driving into the rough at the 18th to end up with a four-under 67, joining Dane Thorbjorn Olesen at the top of the leaderboard.
"There's about four or five holes that I have to birdie to compete and I birdied them all today," the 33-year-old told reporters.
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"So that's kind of been my game plan. Make a lot of pars and get to a par-five or one of those short par-fours (where) I can do my wedge game and get it to 10 or 12 feet. That’s my plan."
Kisner said seven, eight, 14 and 15 were his must-have holes and sure enough he birdied them.
The Southern Carolinian added another birdie at the par-three sixth for a three-in-a-row streak and the birdie at the tricky 18th put a cherry on top of his day.
Winner in Fort Worth this year for his second PGA Tour title, Kisner said he was accustomed to having to plot his strategy to keep up with the long hitters.
"I’m going to say every course we play is a bomber’s course," he said.
"But if they are not playing from the fairway, I wouldn’t want to be doing it. The rough's brutal. I don’t care how far they hit it.
"If I can keep hitting fairways, I’m going to like my chances."
Kisner grabbed his share of the lead despite failing to stay on the fairway at the 18th.
"I had 200 (yards) to the front and I was in between a five and a six-iron," he said.
"It’s just all dependent on your lie. That one was just thinned behind it so I knew I could get a club on it ...
"I knew it would come out knuckling, and was just trying to judge how far it’s going to run."
Kisner’s judgment was impeccable as his challenging approach shot ran up to the green 20 feet left of the hole - close enough for a birdie-three to send him into the second round as co-leader.
"I’m just going to be trying to stick to birdieing the holes they give to you to make birdie," he added.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, editing by Nick Mulvenney)