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January 8 2012

3:47 AM

Eagle-eagle finish tough to top

Na eagles the 18th

Kevin Na eagled the par-5 18th, his second consecutive eagle to finish his round of 64 on Saturday.

By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Kevin Na eagled the par-4 17th when he holed out from 221 yards. He followed that with an eagle at the par-5 18th when his second shot from 277 yards landed 10 feet from the pin.

When he rolled in that 10-foot putt, he pumped his fist. Consecutive eagles are rare -- and an eagle-eagle finish had never happened at the Plantation Course.

"I think it'll be the best finish of my life," Na said. "I don't think I can do much better than that."

Indeed. It's doubtful few can do much better than Na in the last 10 holes at Kapalua. Na was 9 under in that stretch, fueling his big move up the leaderboard as he ultimately shot a 9-under 64.

That leaves him at 9 under for the tournament, in solo third place, six shots behind Steve Stricker and one behind Webb Simpson.

Na has plenty of strokes to make up if he wants to catch Stricker. But after an eagle-eagle finish, nothing seems impossible after tying a course-record for low nine with his back-nine 29.

"The 29s are pretty cool," said Na, who tied the tournament record for low 9. "I knew exactly what that putt was for on 18 and you could tell by my reaction."

Na actually was floundering a bit early in his round. He had dropped a shot at the par-4 fourth. Although he bounced back with a birdie at the par-5 fifth, he was still even par for the tournament and his round when he reached the par-5 ninth.

But a birdie there from 11 feet got him started. From there, he birdied the 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th holes before his spectacular finish.

"Back nine, all of the sudden it started coming together," Na said. "I started hitting some good iron shots in there, made some good putts, and I had it 5 under and I was pretty pleased."

Standing over his second shot at the 17th, he took out a 5 iron. Off a hook lie, he hit a little cut. After he swung, he turned to his caddie Kenny Harms and asked, "Is that the right club?"

It was. When the ball rolled into the hole, Na said he realized another eagle opportunity was coming up at the 18th. He calculated in his head -- he could shoot 29 on the back.

But he didn't have to worry about trying to control his emotions heading to the 18th.

"I think these hills make me too tired to get that pumped up," he said.

Even so, he'll certainly enter the third round pumped about his chances to make another big move. Having won his first PGA TOUR event last year, Na would love to add a second win this week.

"I feel like I need to validate myself and win out here again," he said. "But I know if I keep working hard at it, I'm going to get that second win."

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