Na's patience pays off at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier
July 09, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Kevin Na wins by five strokes at The Greenbrier
Sometimes patience goes a long way, and things can be worth the wait. Just ask Kevin Na, who has produced plenty of highlights between victories on the PGA TOUR, but finally produced those that matter most: Winning ones.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Na said yeah on the greens at The Old White TPC over the weekend to streak away Sunday for a dominant win.
1. Good things come to those who wait. When Kevin Na won the 2011 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the prevailing thought was it would not be his last victory. Most pundits might not have said he’d win an epic number of tournaments, but the majority expected Na to make his presence felt in the winner’s circle again. The confidence of that happening dwindled with each passing missed opportunity and throughout a period where Na just could not pull the trigger on his swing. He had six runner up results since his Las Vegas triumph leading into this week.
But after a less than stellar opening round, where he gave up nearly two strokes on the field in putting, Na found his groove. His performance on the greens on the weekend was first class. His Sunday efforts on the way to a 6-under 64 and a five-shot win showed a calmness in the moment he’d been missing. Saturday he made 124 feet, seven inches of putts. Sunday it was 143 feet, eight inches. See more about his putting stats below. Six birdies in seven holes set up the win. And a clutch par putt on the 12th, after his only bogey the hole before, showed he was ready.
Much maligned at times for his pace of play or above mentioned “yips” Na always kept a positive attitude. And sported an infectious smile. His 16 at the Texas Open a few years back will always be the stuff of legend… but it is great to see him add a different set of highlights.
2. Phil Mickelson never really troubled those near the top of the leaderboard all week, but it didn’t stop him from dominating some headlines. Mickelson revealed a high stakes exhibition match against long-time rival Tiger Woods is in the works and had initially been mooted for the recently passed July 3 date. If it does happen, it’s sure to bring plenty of attention. It might be a decade or so after almost everyone wanted to see them head to head, but that’s okay. Now older and wiser, the pair could really add to the theatre of it all with plenty of barbs back and forth. It’s a watch this space scenario for sure.
3. He’s a familiar name with eight PGA TOUR wins, but Brandt Snedeker has been noticeably absent from regular contention this season as he returns from last year’s sternum injury. Sneds was one of those players you could always count on finding his way in and around the lead, but this reboot has been a tester on his patience as the great play hasn’t come as easy as often. But his steady perseverance started to bear fruit and now he has second top-10 finish from his last four starts. A tie for sixth at FedEx St. Jude Classic and his third place this week after a sublime Sunday 64 have Snedeker moving in the right direction to return to the FedExCup Playoffs. The 2012 FedExCup champion missed them last season with the injury. But an important move up to 84th this week — and booking a place in the Open Championship with his finish — has given him some breathing space and a platform from which to make further moves.
4. Sunday might have belonged to Na, but it was also significant to dig a little deeper and see how a bunch of players dealt with the furnace of pressure as they look to take their own dreams to another level. First there was Kelly Kraft and Harold Varner III, who held the 54-hole lead as they looked to secure their first wins on the PGA TOUR. They will certainly learn from the experience. Kraft hit the ball beautifully off the tee but couldn’t quite dial in his approach and putting game on Sunday. As each putt missed he saw Na just streak further and further away. But to his credit, he stayed solid enough to be runner up. Varner’s putter was also cold on Sunday and his tee game was also not quite up to scratch in terms of pushing for a win. But while it was clear he didn’t have his best stuff, Varner didn’t give up and ultimately finished in a tie for fifth.
He shared that place with Sam Saunders, among others. Saunders was another with a chance for his first win, particularly with the good vibes of using Arnold Palmer’s old putter, but a Sunday 70 was all he could put together.
Joel Dahmen had a chance to win but also failed to go low Sunday. But he put his experience of playing with Tiger Woods at the Quicken Loans National to immediate use, finishing with his first top-10 of the season. The tie for fifth is a career best finish on TOUR and just his second career top-10.
And then there was John Peterson. Playing on his last start of a Major Medical exemption, Peterson needed a very high finish to get his TOUR card back. He needed a fairly high one for conditional status. Otherwise he would retire and move into real estate. After making a final hole birdie on Friday to make the cut on the number, he made his push all weekend and closed with a 66 to push into a tie for 13th. It meant a nervous wait. And in the end, it wasn’t the outcome he hoped for finishing an agonizing 0.58 points shy of the mark. If Peterson really is done with professional golf we wish him well in his new endeavors.
5. Bring on Joaquin Niemann. The youngster from Chile once again showed his mettle on Sunday. He could have mailed it in on Sunday after a disappointing third round sent him spiraling out of serious contention. But knowing every non-member FedExCup equivalent point is critical in his quest to join the PGA TOUR next season, the 19-year-old was outstanding on Sunday. His bogey-free 64 took him all the way into a tie for fifth and moved him to 414 non-member points. That would put him at 100th place on the list this season, seemingly locking up a place in the top 125 with just six weeks remaining. We are going to see a lot more of this guy.
Shot of the Day
Kevin Na sinks a 43-foot birdie for Shot of the Day
1. Na ranked inside the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (8th), Strokes Gained: Around- the-Green (4th) and Strokes Gained: Putting (2nd), marking just the second winner this season to rank inside the top 10 in all three of these Strokes Gained categories (Dustin Johnson, Sentry TOC).
2. Almost half (42 percent) of Na’s total strokes gained for the week were a result of his putting performance, gaining +1.772 strokes per round in Strokes Gained: Putting. In the last two rounds Na outperformed the field by +6.91 total strokes on the greens, compared to +0.19 in the first two rounds.
3. Na made five birdies in his opening nine holes of the final round, posting a 29. He’s just the fifth PGA TOUR winner in the ShotLink era to record an opening nine-hole score under 30. Na ranked inside the top four in several key putting statistics leading the field in Putts Per Round (26.50) and One-Putt Percentage (50%). He made three putts from outside 25 feet, tying Francesco Molinari (Quicken Loans National) and Webb Simpson (THE PLAYERS Championship) for the most Total One Putts from this distance by a winner this season.
4. Kraft (2nd), Snedeker (T3), Jason Kokrak (T3) and Austin Cook (T5) earned a berth into the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie. The leading four players who finished in the top 12 and ties not already exempt earned spots into the field. Cook received the invite for being the highest-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking of those who finished T5.
5. The big FedExCup movers this week included some critical moves with Playoff ramifications: Na — from 58th to 18th; Kraft — from 119th to 59th; Kokrak — from 95th to 64th; Snedeker — from 115th to 84th; Joel Dahmen — 126th to 108th; Saunders — 132nd to 113th and Varner — 139th to 123rd.
Kevin Na interview after winning The Greenbrier