Again in contention, Na waits for first win
Saturday, February 19, 2011
On a day when California Cool remained the focal point – that would be Fred Couples, of course – the Northern Trust Open at famed Riviera dragged on in soggy conditions. Five storylines from third-round action:
1.) Young man, old story
All the numbers point to a grizzled veteran in his 30s – 191 tournaments, just over $9 million in prize money, 24 top 10s.
Then you glance at the fine print and see that Kevin Na is just 27 years old and you ask yourself: How’d he do so much, so soon, with so few people taking note?
Difficult that it might be to believe it, but Na is already in his eighth PGA Tour season, but perhaps what has kept him so under the radar is this – he hasn’t won.
2011 Northern Trust Open
From Phil Mickelson to Jhonattan Vegas, the Northern Trust Open put Riviera Country Club on full display.
Not that he hasn’t had chances; in fact, just two years ago only three players had more than Na’s nine top 10s and the fact that those players were named Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, and Steve Stricker confirms that the native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is keeping great company these days.
Na has recorded one top 10 already this season, a T-5 at the Hope, and since 2007 there have been 20 of them. So it’s no surprise to look up at the Northern Trust leaderboard and see Na in contention. You almost expect it, eh? The only wonder seems to be this: Just when will he turn one of these into a win?
2.) Would you call it a hip check?
One more day like this and Harrison Frazar will put completely out of his mind the painful end to his 2010 season.
Offsetting a bogey at his ninth hole, the par 4 18th, Frazar scored the front nine in 5-under 31 to post a 6-under 65 and roar up the leaderboard. Pushing to 6 under, Frazar will start the final round of the Northern Trust Open within sight of the lead – at a time when he surely needs it.
That’s because the 39-year-old Texan is playing right now on a Major Medical Extension, having undergone hip surgery last August. He entered the season needing to make $585,697 in just 11 tournaments to remain fully exempt and given that he made just $11,300 in his first two starts, the pressure is building.
3.) Another Saturday slip-up
Padraig Harrington remains a big tease. He talks constantly of changing his game, you shake your head in wonderment, then he runs out and plays beautifully for two days and you think nothing has changed from a few years ago.
Then, he falls back and you think, maybe the changes have not kicked in.
As he did a week ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Harrington got into contention through 36 holes at Riviera, only to take a Saturday stumble. From 69-68 a week ago, Harrington finished 73-78 to drop from view.
Moving down the California coast didn’t change things, because Harrington opened 68-71 at Riviera to sit just four off the lead; a third-round 75 assures the Irishman a very early tee time Sunday.
Hard to believe, given the three majors he won in 2007-08, but Harrington hasn’t won a PGA Tour or European Tour event since the 2008 PGA Championship.
4.) Another LA traffic jam
Thanks to rough weather late Friday that produced tough playing conditions, some notable names made the cut. Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler were among those at 3 over who seemingly were going to miss the Hollywood weekend; instead, they survived to play as 78 players got in at 3 over or better.
It’s a bigger cut than PGA Tour officials would have liked, given the weather forecast, but so be it. It meant Furyk did not miss a third straight cut for the first time since 2004 and it meant Troy Merritt made his first cut of the season. Ditto Ricky Barnes, though he is playing in just his second tournament, thanks to a back problem.
Among those who did miss the cut were two guys who went from good to bad in a hurry – Luke Donald backed up a 68 with a 79, and Ben Martin went 67-80. As for former two-time Riviera champion Mike Weir (77-77), the comeback from an elbow injury remains a struggle.
5.) Change of plans
Goodbye, Mayakoba. Hello, Marana.
That was the gist of Henrik Stenson’s day when he discovered that his travel plans have changed – thanks to Toru Taniguchi. The Japanese player, No. 64 in the world order, cited a sore neck for withdrawing from the upcoming Accenture Match Play Championship, so that gets No. 65, Stenson, into the field.
Stenson, who won the match play tournament in 2007 but has struggled mightily since winning the Players Championship in 2009, had planned to tee it up at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico. Instead, he can make plans for Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., where his first-round match Wednesday will be against top-seeded Lee Westwood.
The official match play bracket will be revealed Sunday night.