Third round leader Kevin Na, a Korean American, survived a devastating triple bogie on the 10th hole today to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on the PGA Tour at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada, his hometown. He won it on the second extra hole, the 18th hole, in a sudden-playoff against Patrick Cantlay. It was Na’s fourth win on the PGA Tour and his second win here at the Shriners. He had won it in 2010 as his first win after eight years on this Tour.
Kevin Na is no stranger to mishaps in professional golf. In 2010, at the Valero Open in San Antonio, he scored the highest score ever on one hole on the PGA Tour since records have been kept–a sixteen on the par-four ninth hole to shoot 80. He has led several PGA Tour tournaments and finished poorly. He has lost three sudden playoffs on this Tour. So, today was his first playoff win on the PGA Tour.
After his triple, Na hung in there all the way by continually staying one stroke ahead of playing partner Cantlay until the reachable 16th hole. Both players drove well and thus in the fairway with mid irons to the green. Na hit first and made a strategic error by blocking his second shot to the right and into the water guarding the front and right side of the green. Cantlay then played safely onto the green. It resulted in a two-stroke swing as Cantlay two putted easily for his birdie four as Na registered a bogie six.
So, they went to the 175-yard, downill, par-three 17th hole with Cantlay leading by one stroke. The pin was located on the front left side of the green, which is guarded by a another lake, this one on the left side of the green. Cantlay hit his shot only few feet left, but enough for the ball to barely creep into the water.
But believe me, there is really no safe play on the 17th, especially when the pin is on the front of the green. I know because we used to play our Senior/Champions Tour even here at TPC Summerlin every year in my later years on that Tour.
Na then bailed out to the right again with his iron shot, landing in the right, greenside sand bunker. The danger on that shot is that he didn’t much green to work with, with the water right behind the pin location. So, Kevin did what turned out to be the right decision by playing his 25-foot bunker shot way right of the pin, where there was more green to avoid the water.
Cantlay almost holed his pitch and made bogie. Na then heroically barely made his almost twenty-foot par putt to even the score between him and fellow competitor with the par-four 18th hole as their remaining 72nd hole for the tournament.Na again hit to right. Yesterday, I blogged about a swing flaw Kevin has, in which he tends to straighten up and “come off the ball” barely before impact, which usually results in shots missed to the right. Players who are troubled with this swing flaw often have it happen when in the hunt to win. I know because I had to fight that in my career.
But Na lucked out, missed the right fairway bunker, and good lie just off the fairway. Cantlay then drove perfect again, 348 yards as the longest drive there that day. But Na missed his iron to right again, missing the green. Cantlay hit to about 25 feet from the hole. With the pin tucked close to the lake guarding the left side of the green, Kevin pitched beautifully to about two feet from the hole. Patrick’s putt sat on the lip of the cup. So, both players parred to set up a sudden-death playoff.
The first sudden-death playoff hole was the 18th hole. Both players drove perfect, right along side each other in the middle of the fairway. And they did likewise with two wonderful short iron shots: Patrick eight feet from the hole and Kevin about 6.5 feet. Both hit perfect putts, right in the middle of the cup at the right speed. So, they both birdied the first sudden-death hole to continue the playoff.
They then played the 18th hole against as the second sudden-death playoff hole. Both drove in the fairway. Na hit first to less than twenty feet right of the hole. Cantlay played a somewhat poor shot with his (probably) nine iron, leaving himself way short of the hole with a 43 footer. And his first putt was just as bad, being six feet short of the hole. Na barely missed his birdie, leaving himself about a two foot putt for par four. Cantlay then gave Na the tournament by missing his par putt left of the hole.
Kevin Na just won his fourth PGA Tour tournament after sixteen years on the PGA Tour. He was emotional in his televised interview right after winning today. With his ever-so-cute two-year old daughter in his arms much of that extended interview, he expressed his feelings. He also paid a high compliment to Cantlay, calling him “a world class player.” Na also spoke some message in Korean that lasted about a minute. We non-Koreans never knew what he said. I’m sure it was straight from the heart from this winsome winner in the new season on the PGA Tour today.