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Kisner wins Match Play year after losing in final

AUSTIN, Texas -- Kevin Kisner made it to the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play final for the second consecutive year, and this time he got it right.

A week that began with a loss ended with the biggest victory of Kisner's career when he holed a 20-foot birdie putt to close out Matt Kuchar 3 and 2 in the chilly championship match at Austin Country Club.

"It was a long week. I prevailed. And I'm a world golf champion,'' Kisner said off the 16th green.

He became the first player to win Match Play after losing in the championship match the previous year. That one wasn't close, as Bubba Watson raced out to a big lead and ended the match in 12 holes.

Kisner never trailed against Kuchar, though it was tight at the turn until Kuchar made too many mistakes. He missed a 12-foot putt on the 10th that would have tied the match, and on his next swing put his tee shot into the water on the par-3 11th.

Kisner, with a 2-up lead, took it from there. He halved holes by making putts from 6 feet and 4 feet, and then seized control on the 15th when Kuchar's chip was too strong and led to another lost hole.

He won for the third time in his career, this victory worth $1,745,000.

"It's tough to maintain the high level of play the entire tournament,'' Kuchar said. "You hope to do it, and I feel like I've kind of built a game that I could rely on playing some good, steady golf. But I gave too many holes away. I knew against Kisner I couldn't do it, and he just plodded along ... and let me make mistakes. And that was good playing by Kevin.''

Kisner had to play 120 holes over seven matches in five days, a stretch that began with a loss to Ian Poulter in group play. Kisner became the first player to win the Match Play with a loss during the round-robin portion, which began in 2015.

The second straight all-American final resulted in a sixth consecutive U.S. victory in the World Golf Championships.

Kisner first had to get past British Open champion Francesco Molinari, so dominant that he had never played the 18th hole in five previous matches this week. Molinari birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie the match, but on the 18th, the Italian three-putted from 25 feet above the hole as Kisner advanced.

Kuchar, who won the Match Play in 2013, had to beat Lucas Bjerregaard in the semifinals in another match that went the distance. Bjerregaard, who knocked out Tiger Woods in the quarterfinals with clutch shots down the stretch, made a 10-footer on the 17th to stay alive, but he couldn't come up with the birdie he needed on the 18th.

Molinari beat Bjerregaard in the consolation match, which was worth $712,000. Bjerregaard earned $574,000 for finishing fourth.

No matter the format, what hasn't changed about Match Play is that only one guy leaves happy.

Molinari described it as "bittersweet'' after winning the consolation match, still thinking about the bogey that cost him the match against Kisner. Bjerregaard, who made a name for himself that remained tough for the Texas crowd to pronounce, left Austin as the 27-year-old Dane who took down Woods.

But he could think only of putts he couldn't make in either match.

"I can't stand here and say it's been a bad week,'' Bjerregaard said. "We were 64 and I'm in the last four. But to lose twice in a day, that hurts.''

Kisner was all smiles with a week that tested him every match except for his 6-and-5 win over Li Haotong during group play. The biggest challenge Sunday morning was a wind chill in the upper 30s, making it hard to figure out how far the ball was going and where because of the swirling wind.

But he played his best golf against Molinari, and he played well enough against Kuchar.