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PGA Championship will change a life forever in tight final round

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It is going to be a nervy PGA Championship final round Sunday at Quail Hollow.

There isn’t a lot of major championship pedigree at the top of the leaderboard. A win for any one of the players on it can change a life.

Kevin Kisner, who entered this week never even having held the share of a lead in any of the 11 major championships he has played in, enters Sunday’s final round with the lead for the third consecutive day.

Kisner, who shot 72 Sunday, is 7-under and holds a one-shot lead over Chris Stroud, who only got into the field this week by winning the PGA Tour’s opposite-field event in Reno, Nev., last week, and Hideki Matsuyama, last week’s winner of the WGC-Bridgestone.

Justin Thomas and Louis Oosthuizen are both 5-under, two shots back. Grayson Murray is 3-under. And there are five players, including Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland, who are 2-under.

Of the first 16 players on the leaderboard, only Oosthuizen, a former British Open winner, has won a major. The rest are seeking their first.

“It’s a dream to win a major,’’ Kisner said. “That’s what I grew up practicing and playing, to play on the PGA Tour and to have a chance in major championships. The way my game’s progressed over my career, I like where I am, and I like having a chance [Sunday]. It will be awesome to take home the Wanamaker Trophy and a lot of great names on that trophy.’’

The 35-year-old journeyman Stroud, ranked 203rd in the world and the best long-shot story on the leaderboard, said of wining a major: “I’ve dreamed about this for years. I know all these guys are going to be super-nervous. I’m sure I will be, too. But last week [his first career PGA Tour win] just gave me an unbelievable sense of calm.

“I’ve never felt so relaxed on the golf course and I think it’s a lot of reason why I’m playing so well,’’ added Stroud, who shot 71 Sunday.

Matsuyama, the hottest player in golf fresh off his record-setting final-round 61 last week at Firestone, said he was “disappointed the way’’ he played Sunday, adding, “However, I’m happy to just to be one stroke back and still have a chance and looking forward to [Sunday].’’

Matsuyama, who is trying to become the first male player from golf-crazy Japan to win a major championship, conceded that “probably the pressure had something to do with’’ his 2-over round of 73.

Kisner, who had a share of the lead after 18 and 36 holes, has a chance to win wire-to-wire if he can close it out Sunday. He showed some nerves when he had a chance to separate himself Saturday, but he hooked his approach shot into a lake on No. 16 and took double bogey.

Kisner was 10-under at the time and had a two-shot lead on Stroud, his nearest competitor.

“The game seems easy till you snipe one in the water,’’ Kisner said. “Then it becomes hard.’’

The double dropped him into a tie momentarily with Stroud at 8-under, before Stroud bogeyed the par-3 17th to fall to 7-under.

“I’m happy I’m in the position I’m in,’’ Kisner said. “I had a chance to run away from guys and take people out of the tournament that were four or five, six [shots] back, and I didn’t do it. Now I’m in a dogfight [Sunday] and I have to be prepared for that.’’

Hideki Matsuyama hits out of the rough on the ninth hole Saturday.Getty Images

That could be a beneficial position for Kisner, who sometimes performs and represents a junkyard dog of sorts with his brooding competitive nature.

Kisner, a tough character to read because his stoic demeanor rarely changes, said he always has been “pretty good’’ at keeping his emotions concealed on the golf course.

“This game will do it to you in,’’ he said. “As soon as you think you’re on top of things, it finds a way to kick you right in the face. So there’s no real reason for me getting mad or upset or showing y’all that I’m ticked off.

“I’m pretty good at keeping it all in. The golf course here is so hard, if you get pissed, you’re just going to throw away more shots. There’s no real reason to show that emotion.’’

After a pause, Kisner added, “I’ll show plenty of emotion if I win [Sunday], don’t worry.’’

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