Kevin Na snaps 7-year winless streak with Greenbrier triumph

Jul 8, 2018; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; Kevin Na with the trophy after winning A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier at The Old White TPC. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Na snaps 7-year winless streak with Greenbrier triumph

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Kevin Na snaps 7-year winless streak with Greenbrier triumph

Kevin Na agonized through six runner-up showings in seven years since his last, and only, PGA Tour win.

Then came A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier where he lapped the field so thoroughly, he casually began chatting with a CBS cameraman as he walked up the 18th hole Sunday at the Old White TPC.

The cameraman asked, “How are you feeling?” Na snapped his head around and, with a large grin, said, “Feel good.”

Na finished out his par for a closing 6-under 64, a 19-under 261 total and a five-shot victory. With it, he exorcised a fistful of demons.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Na said. “I’ve waited a long time for this. Lot of close calls, lot of disappointments. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come again.”

Na, 34, began the day one back of Kelly Kraft and Harold Varner III but was in control by the start of the back nine. Na got hot, going on two streaks of three consecutive birdies (Nos. 4-6 and Nos. 8-10) for six birdies in seven holes.

He made putts of 43, 33 and 24 feet over that stretch, and suddenly led by five. If flashes of his past failures to close entered his head, Na didn’t show it.

A bogey at the par-4 11th brought Na’s lead down to three and he faced a 21-foot birdie putt at 14. He hit what he thought was a good stroke, but commented in disbelief as the ball trickled 5 feet past the hole. His lead was crumbling.

With that pressure building, Na buried the comebacker.

“I had to collect myself and say, oh, my God, I’ve got to get myself together and make this par putt,” Na said. “And I felt like that was the key putt to an easy walk up 18.”

Jul 8, 2018; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; Kevin Na out of the sand on the 17th hole during the final round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier golf tournament at The Old White TPC. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Na found his way out of trouble all weekend. (Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Indeed, a bogey behind from Kraft pushed Na’s lead back to four and it swelled again to five after Na birdied the par-4 16th. For good measure, he drained a 16-footer for par from the fringe at the par-5 17th.

While he cruised, others were battling.

Kraft birdied the final hole for a closing 70 to finish in solo second at 14 under. He secured himself a spot in the British Open (the top four finishers at The Greenbrier not already exempt for Carnoustie earned spots.

Brandt Snedeker (closing 64) and Jason Kokrak tied for third at 13 under to punch their tickets to Carnoustie. Austin Cook grabbed the fourth Open spot with a T-5 at 12 under and a higher world ranking than any other non-exempt T-5 finisher.

Among those in the disappointed 12-under group were Varner and Sam Saunders. Varner’s closing 72 left him one shot short of an Open berth. Saunders’ final-round 70 did the same, and his was tougher to watch considering he was cruising to Carnoustie until back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 derailed him.

Nothing was stopping Na.

He said after the round that he would see stats on telecasts showing his penchant for high finishes with few wins. Na said it may’ve seemed like he tried too hard in the past and that he played relaxed on Sunday.

Once it was over, he let the pressure flow out. In the midst of a post-round TV interview, Na asked if he could speak Korean. He took several seconds to compose himself and teared up as he offered an emotional message of gratitude to Korean supporters.

Na may’ve had his doubts, but he believed his second Tour win was not far out of reach.

“I was thinking I was going to win one before the year was over and here it is,” Na said. Gwk

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