5 Things: Na holds off Watney for first victory
Monday, October 3, 2011
Kevin Na picked up his first PGA Tour victory with an outstanding back nine Sunday at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open, outlasting regular-season FedEx Cup leader Nick Watney to win the $756,000 first-place check. Here are 5 Things to take away from Na's win in Las Vegas:
1.) Fi-Na-lly: The headline might be a stretch, but Kevin Na's play on Sunday was not. It was rock solid. After it looked like nerves were causing Na to think a bit too much on the back nine, Na birdied Nos. 15-17 to put some room between he and Nick Watney. Even on the final hole, when Na pushed his drive well right, he managed to put his approach over trees and save par to keep any repeat of last year (a dramatic playoff won by Jonathan Byrd) out of the equation.
"I had a lot of thoughts going through my head throughout the whole round. Pictured myself winning, pictured myself failing, but mostly I pictured myself winning," said Na. "Honestly, after I made that putt on 17, my mind was blank and I was just in the moment and hitting my shots.
"I knew there was still a lot to be worked on on 18. The tee was up, and I've been hitting a lot of drivers off the tee. I love hitting 3-wood off the tee, but I haven't hit much 3-wood off the tee this week, and I was actually uncomfortable more with the 3-wood than the driver. I felt really comfortable with the driver, but I had hit 3-wood. Fortunately that flares off to the right, but I knew you got the hole roll right."
A closer look at Na's four-day scorecard sheds light on why Na won the tournament: 27 birdies, 4 bogeys. That's it. He took advantage of the scoring holes (a birdie on the par-5 16th each day), while minimizing the damage on his toughest holes (his bogey on No. 14 on Sunday could have been much worse, but he two-putted from 81 feet to pick up a bogey).
Na finally broke through after three top 5s this season, as well as two in 2010 and four in 2009.
2.) Nicked again: Watney has been one of the most consistent player on Tour this season, and the Shriners wasn't any different. He picked up his fifth top-5 finish of the season (his first as the runner-up), while also finishing in the top 10 for the 10th time. This was Watney's best finish since his win at AT&T National in July.
Watney, a Sacramento, Calif., native and Fresno State grad, seems to enjoy playing in Vegas, finishing T-6 in 2010 as well. He also says a new mindset helped him this week.
"I think one thing I've relearned this week is how serious I was taking it, how badly I wanted to play well the last couple of months, and that didn't always translate into good golf," said Watney. "So this week I came here with no expectations. I took it very easy and played pretty nice. So I'm going to take the fact that, you know, maybe just take it a little more easy and hopefully this will carry over into China."
3.) Viva Vegas! Yes, the tournament was played in Sin City, but it was the Vegas on the course that tried to make some noise. Early-season winner and rookie Jhonattan Vegas carded his fourth round in the 60s on Sunday, posting a 3-under 68 to finish T-5, six shots back of Na. Vegas has had a standout rookie season, with one win, three top 5s and 5 top 25s. Coming into the week, the University of Texas prodcut was only in the top 10 of one major statistical category (9th in driving distance at 304.5 yards), but was tied for sixth on Tour with nine consecutive cuts made earlier this year, while also becoming known for taking risks, ranking fifth on Tour in going for the green (69.96 percent).
"You know what, after that birdie putt (on the first hole) I was feeling really good," said Vegas. "I felt like I played a great round today. I felt like I played okay, but it was -- I didn't really give myself enough opportunities to really go low, and I knew I had to go low because these guys were absolutely playing great.
"But it's a good tournament. You gotta take the positives. You know, I mean I'm still a rookie, having a chance to win on Sunday was good, and performing pretty decent on Sunday, so it was good."
4.) Good will Hunter: Hunter Haas fired both a 61 an 64 in Las Vegas, the lowest scores of both the second and fourth rounds, respectively. Unfortunately for Haas, he also had a 71 and 72 in the tournament. Haas moved to 85th in the PGA Tour money list, while also picking up his fourth top 10 of the season and eighth top 25.
5.) Who is that guy? That would be David Duval, folks. The major champion had missed the cut in 12 of 20 events in 2011, including five of his last six starts. But Duval had three rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin to finish T-23 at 14 under. The most impressive part of his four days? Two bogey-free rounds and was a double-bogey at No. 18 on Sunday from having another.