By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The last time we saw Kevin Na, he was struggling with his pre-shot routine at THE PLAYERS Championship and being targeted as the poster boy for slow play in golf.
Say hello to the new and improved -- and much quicker -- Kevin Na.
In his first round since THE PLAYERS, Na shot an even-par 70 in Thursday's first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. But his score was overshadowed, at least on this day, by the significant changes he made in his pre-shot routine.
Gone are the series of waggles and half-waggles and step-backs and resets that were on display at TPC Sawgrass. He vowed to limit himself to one practice swing for each shot, and other than one shot on his final nine, he stayed true to that routine.
The 28-year-old Na said that since THE PLAYERS Championship -- in which he held the 54-hole lead before posting a final-round 76 that dropped him into a tie for seventh -- his only goal was to quicken the pace of his routine. He said he hasn't worked on any other aspect of his game in the last 10 days prior to Thursday.
"It's the only thought I had," he said. "... I need to change this. This is all I'm going to do. This is all I'm going to think about and I'm going to get it done.
"I'm actually surprised how quickly I'm doing this."
Na said this his new routine now goes like this: "One practice swing at the ball. Put the club behind the ball. Look at the target. Keep staring at the target. Put my feet in when I feel comfortable, when I feel like I'm balanced."
He acknowledged that it affected his play early in Thursday's round, as he bogeyed his opening hole and his fifth hole. But he made three consecutive birdies around the turn and was under par for his round until a late bogey.
During the round, he was looking back at the groups behind him to make sure he wasn't holding up play. "I'm constantly looking because the arrow always points toward me."
Asked if his faster routine became easier as the round continued, Na said it did not.
"Every shot is hard," he said. "I'm constantly thinking about it. I'm not even thinking about my golf swing. It's kind of hurting me a little bit. I always have a swing thought but right now I don't have time to have a swing thought. Just got to think about my pre-shot routine and get ready and go."
It didn't help matters that the winds at Colonial were gusting up to 30 mph. Na said the winds kicked up during his second shot at the par-4 fifth and that caused him to reset for the only time.
"It's hard as it is that I'm actually trying a brand-new routine," he said. "... I probably choose the hardest round to try my pre-shot routine."
Na said he also tried to maintain a quick pace on the greens.
At the seventh hole, he faced a 29-foot uphill birdie putt. With the wind gusting downhill, Na said he "really wanted to back off" but instead went ahead and putted, with the ball rolling five feet past the hole. He missed the comebacker to save par.
At one point in his round, one of his playing partners, John Huh, told Na that he thought he was taking the pre-shot routine to the extreme.
When asked after his round if he felt like he was going too fast, Na replied: "Want to know the honest truth? Sometimes at the top of my backswing, I go, 'I can't believe I'm already here.' "
Na said he isn't the type of person to make gradual changes, which is why the changes on Thursday were so markedly different than the last time he played.
"I'm one of those guys, if I'm going to fix it, I'm going to do it right now," he said. "I'm not going to go little by little. I'm going to change the whole thing."