Kevin Na - a little help from friends
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open | Wrap | 03 Oct 2011
Kevin Na has won his first PGA Tour title after nearly eight seasons of trying with a two shot win over Nick Watney win at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children tournament in Las Vegas.
It was perhaps fitting that both the winner and the runner-up are both residents of the Las Vegas area.
Na had come under scrutiny during his third round when he appeared to make a full swing at a ball on the 15th tee without hitting it although on closer inspection it was clear he had backed off as he began his downswing and lifted above the ball. He had not been happy with his takeaway and bailed out of the shot although to the naked eye it appeared as if he had whiffed it.
Officials ruled that there was no intent in hitting the ball and so there was no cause for any penalty.
Na is Korean born but moved to the US with his family at the age of eight. He became one of the many precocious Korean talents as he developed into one of the top juniors in the game before turning professional. He played the Asian Tour initially but on securing his card at the Tour School in 2003 he had made it to the big time. Na has kept his card ever since although in 2006 he played only a limited schedule.
Na made headlines earlier in the season for recording a record 16 on a par four during the Valero Texas Open but today he is being remembered for all the right reasons.
Still only 28 years of age despite his significant background, Na appears likely to go on and add a lot more victories now that he has this one out of the way.
“I had a lot of thought going through my head throughout the whole round, said Na after his round. “I pictured myself winning, pictured myself failing, but mostly I pictured myself winning. Honestly, after I made that putt on 17, my mind was blank and I was just in the moment and hitting my shots.
“I want to make a couple comments about some of the players that gave me some good advice. I’m good friends with Y.E. Yang, and Y.E. told me, said, Kevin, don’t try to win. Every time you try to win it’s not going to happen.
“Just go out there and play. Almost feel like you’re playing for second. That’ll take the pressure off you. He goes, every time I won a golf tournament I wasn’t trying to win. When I beat Tiger, he said, I wasn’t trying to win. He said, he’s Tiger Woods just try to finish second. But I just played my game. And he said, it might sound funny, but it might work.
“I told Kenny (caddie) yesterday, I said, maybe I oughta try not to win. And I think some of you guys know what I’m talking about. I’m not really saying I’m not trying to win, but just take a lot of pressure off yourself.
“I also talked to K.J., and I was talking about how disappointed I was in the PLAYOFFS. I was sick, and I finished 71st. And he goes, if you don’t make it in the TOUR Championship, get into the BMW, it’s not a big deal. He said, maybe you’ll win a Fall Series event. Maybe it’s meant to be.”
The leading world ranked player in the field, Nick Watney chased hard all the way on Sunday but Na grabbed an important break when he holed a lengthy birdie putt at the dangerous 17th to take a two shot lead into the final hole. Despite a wild drive there he was able to make par and the title was his by two.
Tommy Gainey and Paul Goydos tied for third at 18 under although five shots behind the winner.
Steven Bowditich and Nick O’Hern improved their positions on the money list when they shared 23rd position this week and led the Australians
O’Hern has moved to 111th and perhaps now has security of tenure for 2012. Bowditch improved one position to 130th and needs to play well in at least one of the next three events remaining on this season’s schedule.
Nathan Green and Rod Pampling were the next best in 34th position with Pampling retaining his 119th position and Green moving up just two spots to 176th.
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