Na stops walking in putts – and now he’s on the verge of winning
May 25, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Kevin Na's Round 3 highlights from Charles Schwab
FORT WORTH, Texas – Kevin Na has been walking in putts for years, but nobody really said much about it. Then two months ago at THE PLAYERS Championship, it became a thing when playing partner Tiger Woods imitated him at the 17th hole during their third round.
“Blew up on social media,” Na said. “It was fun to watch.”
Na had never missed a putt that he walked in … until Thursday when he lipped out a 5-foot birdie attempt at the par-5 first during his opening round at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Since that time, he has not walked in any of his putts at Colonial.
“No more for me for this week,” he said.
Instead, Na has entertained in other ways – by playing the best golf of anybody in the field through 54 holes this week. After shooting a 1-under 69 on Saturday, he’ll take a two-shot lead over five players (including 2016 champion Jordan Spieth) going into Sunday’s final round.
The 35-year-old Na will be searching for his third PGA TOUR, and second in as many years, having won at Greenbrier last season. That win came less than six weeks after he shot the lowest round of his career, a 9-under 61 in the final round at Colonial that vaulted him to solo fourth.
Na started that Sunday tied for 21st, nine shots off the pace held by eventual champ Justin Rose. He’s in a much different – and more advantageous – position heading into this week’s final round.
Another 61 this Sunday won’t just give him a backdoor top-5 result.
“If I shoot another 61,” smiled Na, “I can put my whole life savings that I’m going to win.”
It probably won’t take anywhere close to that for Na to win. Rose shot a 64 last year to win by three shots over Brooks Koepka. The previous five winners shot either 66 or 65. Na – whose last 54-hole on TOUR was also at Colonial, in 2015; he shot 72 that Sunday -- does have a more realistic number in mind.
“As long as nothing weird happens,” he said, “I figure if I shoot 3 under par, that should seal the deal – since you were asking for a number.”
When Spieth won, he shot 65 for a three-shot win over Harris English. Spieth is one of those players at 7 under par after shooting a 68 on Saturday. He thinks 65 on Sunday would get the job done again.
“I’d sign for it right now,” he said.
Jim Furyk, also tied for second, said anything in the mid-60s “would be a great score. I think it’s going to depend on conditions a little bit. … I think we’re going to see a similar golf course to what we’ve seen the last couple of days in the afternoon. 65 would be a heckuva score.”
There have been just nine rounds of 65 or lower this week – three each day. Na has the lowest round, his 8-under 62 on Friday fueling his rise up the leaderboard. It was his third score of 62 or better in his last two visits to Colonial.
Saturday’s round wasn’t nearly as spectacular, as it included a double bogey at the par-5 11th when he found both the fairway and greenside bunkers. During his fourth shot out of the greenside bunker, Na was distracted by a fan. His caddie, veteran Kenny Harms, gave the fan an earful.
“I was upset at first and then I saw the lady’s face and I was like, ‘Oh, my God. She’s going to pee in her pants,’” Na said. “So I said, ‘Come on, Kenny. Let’s forget about it. Let’s just go.”
Na parred the 12th by getting up-and-down from the fairway, then rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt at the 13th. “It was nice that that didn’t affect me the rest of the way,” he said.
He usually doesn’t let anything affect him at Colonial, one of the “seven or eight” courses on the PGA TOUR on which he feels he’s a legitimate contender.
Na said that on Friday after his 62. Furyk isn’t buying it.
“I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I think Kevin was trying to make a point,” Furyk said. “I saw that quote, so he made his point very clearly, and everyone listened. But I think Kevin can win on more than seven or eight courses out here because he’s got a really solid game and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and he’s real consistent.”
Na, though, denied he was sending any hidden messages.
“Wasn’t trying to make a point. That’s just the way I feel,” he said. “There are seven, eight courses I feel like I can win, and some I feel like I can top 10 but don’t think I can win. There are some golf courses I show up and if I finish 30th or better, that is a miracle.”
It will not be a miracle if Na wins on Sunday. He knows how to go low at Colonial, he’s in good form and he’s got a simple gameplan in order to stay away from trouble. “You see that white stone in the middle of the fairway?” Na asked. “That’s where I’m trying to be every hole.”
Plus, he’s all business now. No more walk-in putts. He’ll let his clubs do the entertaining Sunday.