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Kiser had Georgia on his mind, but wore 'Bama on his back

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser — Billy Hull The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Jan. 12--Justin Thomas has had a lot to smile about since his last visit to Hawaii.

A year after sweeping the Hawaii leg of the PGA Tour season, claiming his first major at the PGA Championship, and winning the tour's player of the year award, Thomas cracked yet another smile on the 17th tee Thursday after pulling an Alabama jersey out of a bag.

The defending Sony Open in Hawaii champion took a brief timeout from grinding out a 3-under 67 at Waialae Country Club to present playing partner Kevin Kisner with a gift.

Kisner, a Georgia graduate, paid off a friendly bet against Thomas, a Crimson Tide alumnus, from Monday's college football national championship game, sporting a No. 16 Crimson Tide jersey from tee to green after Alabama's overtime victory over the Bulldogs.

A fun moment indeed, but one that was brief, as the two players who torched this course a year ago found themselves battling through a difficult afternoon on the greens.

Thomas finished with a 67 -- one year removed from setting the PGA Tour 72-hole tournament scoring record with a 27-under 253 -- while Kisner, who shot a 60 during the third round a year ago -- closed with a 68.

"All of us kind of had a hard time getting putts going," said Thomas, who opened with a 59 last year. "That's what's cool about (Waialae). Over the course of the week, definitely a low number takes it, but you go shoot a couple under ... it's never going to kill you and (you) try to throw in one hot low round."

Thomas had reeled off six straight pars and Kisner had gone 12 straight holes without a bogey when they walked past each other at the 16th green.

"I told him one more shot until you put that jersey on me," Kisner said. "We were laughing about it on 16."

"I had forgotten," Thomas said about the bet.

After a five- to seven-minute wait on the tee box, Kisner hit an iron left into the rough near one of the grandstands surrounding the green.

Thomas went next and put his ball on the green. After waiting for Jason Dufner, an Auburn alumnus who made it an All-SEC group, Thomas reached into the bag and put the jersey on Kisner.

They didn't talk much, but Kisner enjoyed the moment long enough to give the gallery something to laugh about.

"It's definitely the best Kiz has ever looked in a jersey," Thomas said.

Kisner chipped to 6 feet from the rough but missed his par putt. He bounced back with a 12-footer for birdie on 18 for his ninth consecutive round here of par or better.

"I'm blaming that bogey on him because I would have never hit that bad of a shot if I wasn't thinking about that Alabama jersey," Kisner joked about 17.

"I wish Kiz would have at least made par so I wouldn't have felt so guilty about it," Thomas added.

At halftime of the national championship game, it looked like Thomas would be the one sporting a Georgia uniform. Alabama brought in true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis School alum from right up the road, to lead a comeback from a 13-0 deficit. Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner in overtime to end it.

When Thomas finished his round on Thursday, he was met with a few "Tua" chants from the skyboxes above.

"Hats off to Coach (Nick) Saban for even taking that risk and putting him in," Thomas said. "I'm hoping to somehow get some of those Tua vibes here in Honolulu for sure."

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