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Na claws his way onto Bay Hill’s leaderboard

ORLANDO, Fla. – To claw, or not to claw? For Kevin Na, that is the question.

Na has been building up a nice record at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and on Thursday he was off to another hot start, shooting 5-under 67. One reason? He was hot with the putter, as he’s been throughout the Florida Swing. Na tied for ninth at the WGC-Cadillac at Doral, and last week was T-10 at the Valspar Championship outside Tampa.

His new system on the greens? Na has been using the claw grip from 20 feet and in, and putting conventionally from outside 20 feet. On Thursday, Na hit only 11 greens in regulation but needed only 24 putts – and that included a three-putt from 48 feet for his lone bogey, at the par-4 11th hole.

Is it a tough call to make when he’s right on the 20-foot mark? Claw? Conventional? He goes by feel. “It’s not like if it’s 21 feet, I can’t do it (the claw),” he said with a smile.

Na, who has one career PGA Tour victory (Las Vegas, 2011), tied for second at Bay Hill in 2010 and tied for fourth here three years ago. He said he is inspired by host Arnold Palmer, grew up a big fan and tries to take a picture with him each year. He also lost in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, The Memorial, in June.

“I think I’m due for one of these legends’ tournaments,” said Na, who is tied for second, one stroke behind Morgan Hoffmann. Who knows? It could be this week.

“I’ll break through and get a picture taken with him.”

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