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Na Snatches Victory to Keep Ryder Cup Dream Alive

By: | Mon 18 Jan 2021 | Comments

BEWARE the injured golfer. Kevin Na nearly withdrew from the Sony Open in Hawaii when he felt pain in his ribs on Wednesday. He had failed to make the tournament in 2019 and 2020 after arriving with neck and finger injuries. But this time he made it to the first tee and holed a birdie putt on the 18th to secure his fifth PGA Tour success.

“On Wednesday morning warming up in the Pro-Am and I pulled my rib, and I didn't know what to expect… I was like here we go again,” Na revealed. “My trainer that I just added to the team, Cornel Driessen, helped me out a lot. We worked on it, loosened it, and the next day I woke up, it felt great and felt like nothing happened. Had he not been here, I don't know, might have been a different story."

Na has now won in the last four TOUR seasons, joining Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau as the only players to achieve the feat. He is now 10th in the FedExCup standings and 23rd in the world rankings and is beginning to dream of making Steve Stricker’s Ryder Cup team.

“It feels great. It's great to get off to a good start this year. It's just all positives. But I'd like to win another one before the season's over,” Na said. “I used to be a really consistent player, a lot of top 10s, a lot of made cuts. Winning was still important then but winning felt a little bit distant to me. I knew I could do it; I've done it before… but I went so many years without winning that I kind of forgot that feeling, and when I validated it at Greenbrier, it made me hungry for more.

“So I think experience is the reason why I've been winning. Experience and confidence. When you do it again, it seems like the next one comes easier. All this time waiting is paying off right now.”

Na walked off the 12th hole after a bogey to fall three shots back of Brendan Steele’s lead. But he rattled off three birdies in a row to surge back into the mix and came to the par-five 18th knowing a birdie would secure er a win or a playoff at worst.

He smashed a five wood out of the rough that skirted past the pin and ran through the green, but made no mistake with his pitch back, ensuring his victory after eagle attempts from Steele and Joaquin Niemann failed to fall.

“I was playing maybe a little bit more aggressive coming down the stretch, not worrying so much about second or third. Every year, I hope to win, and I expect to win, on the right golf courses,” Na added. “Sometimes that adds a little bit more pressure but it's just a mind-set that when you go in, hey, look, if things go well and I play well, I'm going to have a chance. The goals now are to be Top-20 in the world before the year is over, contend in a major, and obviously make it to Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup.”

Niemann was runner up for the second week running in Hawaii – the 22-year-old Chilean lost in a playoff at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and fell one short in Honolulu.

Chris Kirk also fell a shot short while Steele was left to swallow the bitter pill of defeat for the second year running. He joined Marc Leishman and Webb Simpson two shots off the pace. Leishman’s tied fourth represented his first top 10 finish since the Tour shut down in March last year because of Covid-19 and comes just two weeks before his title defence at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup

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