Kevin Kisner’s NBC broadcasting debut prompts 1 major question

Kevin Kisner will make his NBC debut this week in Hawaii, but not without one question following the PGA Tour veteran: Is he retiring?

The post Kevin Kisner’s NBC broadcasting debut prompts 1 major question appeared first on Golf.

Kevin Kisner will make his NBC debut this week in Hawaii, but not without one question following the PGA Tour veteran: Is he retiring?

The post Kevin Kisner’s NBC broadcasting debut prompts 1 major question appeared first on Golf.

In discussing Kevin Kisner’s future, it is tempting to make a lazy joke.

Given the 39-year-old PGA Tour vet has played the majority of his career with a major championship-sized chip on his shoulder, and given that chip has centered around a certain three-word rallying cry, and given that rallying cry has reached borderline mythic proportions among golf degenerates, it is admittedly difficult to avoid stating the obvious: ain’t no hobby is dead.

Yes, for the first time in Kisner’s professional life, playing golf will be a hobby, because, for the first time in his professional life, another golf job will supersede it.

“The first question I get from everyone is, Are you retiring?” Kisner told me, deadpan, Wednesday afternoon. “Then, once they find out what I’m doing, the second question I get is, How long is the delay?”

By “delay,” Kisner doesn’t mean “from his professional playing career.” Instead, he is referring to the FCC-mandated practice of airing certain sports broadcasts on a seven-second tape delay, a procedure enacted by the major broadcast networks to avoid receiving considerable fines for airing profane language or indecent images. Kisner, and his notorious potty mouth, will be putting such measures to the test this weekend.

Perhaps by now you have pieced together Kisner’s new not-hobby: sports broadcasting. This weekend in Maui, he will serve as an analyst on NBC Sports’ coverage of The Sentry, the PGA Tour’s season-opening event. Kisner, a four-time Tour winner who is close with NBC Golf lead producer Tommy Roy, has long flirted with the idea of pitching in for a few weeks of the network’s PGA Tour coverage. This year, with NBC still searching for a replacement for recently ousted lead analyst Paul Azinger, the network has slotted in Kisner for a pair of early-season broadcasts at The Sentry and Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Kisner, whose bone-dry humor and proclivity for four-letter words have made him a beloved figure in certain circles of Golf Twitter, now figures to talk about golf in the one setting in which four-letter words are not welcome, in front of about a million people at a time, for roughly 16 hours over four days.

“I’m literally flying blind,” he says with a chuckle. “I’ve got my first production meeting at 1:30.”

Before the NBC executives responsible for Kisner begin updating their resumes, the author feels compelled to point out that Kisner is largely underselling his prep work. In the lead-up to his NBC debut, he has been consulting with friends across the golf TV industry, virtually all of whom have advised him to “just be yourself.” (“I’ve never tried to be myself before,” he says.) Kisner has many pals in the golf TV world, and not only among the former playing class, which supports my suspicion that he has been mulling a TV career for some time. He also has sworn off expectations, promising me that he genuinely has “no idea what the hell is going to happen” when the camera blinks on. I believe him on this point, but his modesty reads to me not as carelessness but humility.

There are a few reasons for my faith in Kisner, and the first is the most obvious: He is approaching the end. Nearing 40 and fresh off a season in which he “would probably rather drive a nail into a piece of wood than play golf,” Kisner isn’t exactly on the Signature event short list; in fact, his Tour membership is dwindling. After eight missed cuts and two WDs in a 12-event stretch last year, he knows he’s one more cold spell away from putting his remaining exemptions at risk. Also, golf is younger and longer and better than it’s ever been, and in at least two of those categories Kisner is headed in the wrong direction.

Golf broadcasting, as Kisner’s buddies Dan Hicks, Curt Byrum, Tommy Roy and Colt Knost have undoubtedly told him, is a way to stay close to professional golf without playing professional golf. NBC on-course reporter (and recent PGA Tour retiree) Smylie Kaufman described the job to me as “Tour life without Tour benefits.” For those like Kisner who have only known professional golf, it’s tempting to stay close to the light.

paul azinger poses for a headshot at the players championship in ponte vedra beach, fla.

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It helps, too, that Kisner could be good at his new gig. He’s funny in a cutting way, not unlike fellow player-turned-broadcaster David Feherty, and he seems to have a clear sense of the finer points of sports entertainment. His favorite broadcaster is Tony Romo, though Kisner says he will try to avoid any Romo-ian long-toothedness in his on-air persona. He tells me he wants to explain the “whys” of golf in a way he doesn’t think has been done before. (One obvious example of this, he says, is how players without children or families tend to play well at The Sentry because they aren’t coming off holiday chaos.)

I ask him about this week’s host course, the Plantation Course at Kapalua, and he gives a 15-second analysis of the course’s deceptive length that would make Johnny Miller weep. His insistence that he will not be overly critical of his fellow players (“those guys are my friends”) could draw criticism, but in his defense, I’m not sure I’d risk any friendships for two weeks’ worth of paychecks, either.

It’s unclear if Kisner is a legitimate consideration for the lead analyst role vacated by Azinger, but NBC’s talent spin cycle over the last two years would indicate he is at least a serious consideration to join the broadcast team when his career ends, should the next two tournaments go well. Kisner is just the latest of a few names who are expected to “try out” for the lead analyst role in the opening weeks of ’24; other names in consideration include Paul McGinley, Brandel Chamblee, Brad Faxon and Justin Leonard.

Every name on that list has considerably more on-air experience than Kisner (and a significantly lesser chance of running the host network afoul of the FCC). But listening to Kisner talk, it seems the biggest obstacle facing his candidacy for lead analyst could have something to do with his unwillingness to hang up his spikes. When I ask, he emphatically says he is not retiring — he is playing both the Sony Open and American Express in the next three weeks — but then again…

“At some point you got to be prepared,” he said. “I’ll be 40 in February and I think the average age on Tour has dropped down to about 28.”

He pauses.

“I’m no dummy when it comes to looking around.”

Kisner is indeed no dummy, which is perhaps why he has managed to survive the entirety of our 20-minute conversation without even the suggestion of profanity. I bid him good luck as I hang up the phone, but I don’t think he’ll need it.

Luck assumes uncertainty, and there’s no room for uncertainty in the booth.

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