7/10/2018 1:26:00 PM Hot Putter Lands Kevin Na In Winner's Circle At Greenbrier
GREENBRIER CHAMPION — Kevin Na gets a handshake from CBS Sports’ Jim Nance after his victory Sunday in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Na posted a five-shot win, the largest margin of victory in the history of the tournament. (Gavin Dressler Photo)
HOT PUTTER — Kevin Na looks at his putt on the 15th hole Sunday. Na made 143 feet of putts in his final round 6-under-par 64. (Gavin Dressler Photo)
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier endured a 30-minute weather delay before the first player put a peg in the ground Friday morning.
The delay just may have been the key to the second PGA TOUR victory for Kevin Na.
Na retreated to a sponsor’s trailer and worked on his putting.
The rest is Greenbrier history.
The 34-year-old went 63, 65 and 64 over the final three days of the event and posted a five-shot victory over Kelly Kraft, a co-54 hole leader.
Along the way Na made over 400 feet of putts, including 143 feet in Sunday’s final round.
“My putter got hot,” Na said. “I felt something in the rain delay in the trailer. I put it on my Instagram, my social media and it just clicked. The first day the putter felt awful, and it just clicked. Every time I got over the ball, it felt great, and everything felt like it was going in.”
Just about everything did go in for a stretch during the final round.
Na made six birdies in his first 10 holes on Sunday, including a 32-footer on the 6th hole and a 43-footer on No. 8.
He was never challenged on the back nine.
“I tried not to think about winning,” he said. “Obviously, it seems like I’ve always tried too hard. I mean, how do you say you tried too hard? What is the difference, the fine line between trying too hard and letting it happen.
“Definitely thinking about that trophy,” he added. “I was definitely thinking about winning. But I was trying to stay in the moment — I just felt great. I just felt relaxed.”
Along with the trophy, Na picked up the winner’s check of $1.3 million and his first win since the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open.
Na has over $26 million in earnings and had come close many times since his first win, including six runner-up finishes.
“A lot of heartbreaks,” Na offered in his post-tournament press conference.
While Na was putting the lights out, none of the other top contenders could mount a charge.
Kelly Kraft and Harold Varner III, Sunday’s final pairing, offered 70 and 72 respectively, while Na’s playing partner, defending champion Xander Schauffele, scuffled to a 5-over-par 75.
“Obviously, I would have loved to win after leading coming into today, but, you know, sometimes you run into a guy that makes a lot of putts,” said Kraft, who shared the 54-hole lead with Varner. “I didn’t play good enough to win today. But I definitely have a lot of confidence now, going for the rest of the year, moving up the FedExCup list quite a ways I’m sure.”
Kraft did join Brandt Snedeker, Austin Cook and Jason Kokrak in winning the four available invitations to the (British) Open Championship at Carnoustie in two weeks.
Bubba Watson, who started Sunday just three shots off the pace, managed only a 2-over 72, finishing tied for 13th.
“Around the greens, on the greens, as firm as they were, as slick as they were, this was a U.S. Open style of golf course today,” Watson said. “It was pretty difficult out there. For me, I was having trouble getting everything just right.”
Phil Mickelson shot a 4-over 74 on Sunday, a total that included a two-stroke penalty for tamping down some high grass in front of the 7th tee box.
“It was just one of those things that I wasn’t really paying attention or thinking,” said Mickelson, who also was hit with a two-stroke penalty at the U.S. Open for hitting a moving ball. “I don’t even know what to say. I wasn’t really having my best day focus-wise.”
Mickelson’s group had a big following Sunday, partly because of him, but also because of his playing partner and Blacksburg native Lanto Griffin. Griffin, in his rookie season on tour, finished tied for 26th with a final round 68.
But Sunday was all about Na, who was born in South Korea and moved to the United States at age eight.
Known for his yips a few years back, Na can now be known as a two-time PGA TOUR champion.
He made a special point to deliver an emotional thank you to his Korean fans following the victory.
“For the Korean fans at home, I’m an American, but with Korean descent,” Na said. “I call myself Korean-American and I speak both languages fluently. I have fans from both countries and I didn’t want to leave the Korean fans out. I wanted to say thank you to the Korean fans that are watching.”