Na’s putter delivers win in Las Vegas

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It came down to two extra holes. And Kevin Na had one good stroke left in his putter.

Na and Patrick Cantlay had been battling each other for most of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Each had a chance to win Sunday and both tried to give it away.

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But when it counted the most, it was Na who possessed the steadiest hand. He made a four-foot putt for par on the second playoff hole to win at TPC Summerlin, joining Jim Furyk as the only repeat champions of this event. Furyk is a three-time winner (1995, 1997, 1998) and the lone back-to-back champ (1997-98).

“It was way too close,” said Na, who lives in Las Vegas and won $1.26 million. “But I’m a fighter and I’ve been in that situation before. It felt great to come back and win.” 

Both had made birdie putts at the par-4 18th in the first playoff hole. On the second extra hole, they went back to 18. And when Cantlay was unable to make a six-footer for par, it opened the door for Na, who had been wielding a hot putter during most of the week. And when he needed to drain one, he did so to clinch his first playoff victory on the PGA Tour. He also set a Tour record for most distance putted in a tournament — 558 feet, 11 inches.

Things were far different for Na this time from when he won previously in Las Vegas. In 2011, he was single, searching for his first win on the PGA Tour and trying to find his game. Sunday, the 36-year-old father of two was confident all week, trusting his game and despite things going awry for him midway through his final round, with his putter working its magic at the end, he managed to take care of business.

“My family was here. My father (Yong) got to see me win for the first time,” Na said. “It was a very special day.” 

Na was cruising, owning a four-shot lead through seven holes and made the turn up three strokes. But he met with disaster at the par-4 No. 10. He saw his third shot roll off the green, his pitch back went 59 feet past the pin and then missed the bogey putt and had to settle for a triple-bogey 7 that saw his lead shrink to a single shot.

“It was hard to shake it off,” he said. “But I made some great putts down the stretch. I was just grinding. But I know this golf course very well, I felt like i was the favorite. The crowd was behind me and it gave me a lot of energy.” 

He also dropped a shot with a bogey at the par-5 16th as Cantlay passed him. But Cantlay gave the lead back the very next hole and it led to the playoff.

Na managed to keep it together the rest of the way and in a head-to-head showdown with Cantlay, the 2017 Shriners Open champ, Na didn’t blink. He was 60-1 at the Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook to win this week while Cantlay was 12-1.

As for the rest of the field, no one really mounted a serious challenge. Pat Perez finished third at -21 while defending champ Bryson DeChambeau got as close as three shots as did Adam Hadwin after both carded 8-under rounds of 63. But they both ran out of holes to get any closer. They tied for fourth along with Brian Stuard.

If you’re wondering about Phil Mickelson, he finished up the track in 61st place. But he shot a 4-under 67 Sunday so he left Las Vegas on a high note.

“I had a really enjoyable week,” he said. “I came out and had two good rounds out of four. I didn’t obviously compete, but the road back to playing well is a process, and today or this week was a good start on that process, and I’m looking forward to going to Korea and continuing improving. 

“I identified a few areas to continue to work on, but there were some areas of strength as well.”

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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