PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Players Championship leader Kevin Na ran into a pace-of-play issue during the third round at TPC Sawgrass.
The final group of Na and Zach Johnson had been put on the clock by PGA Tour rules officials, after taking more than the allotted 60 seconds to hit his second shot at the par-5 16th. Na received a slow-play warning from PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle in the fairway.
Na, notoriously regarded as one of the slowest players on the PGA Tour, immediately protested the timing. Officials later denied Na's protest.
The warning did not affect Na's scoring, however, as he birdied the 16th and 18th holes to shoot a bogey-free 68.
Now, he's exhausted.
'After I get done I'm pretty tired,' he said, 'because not only am I grinding against the course, but I'm fighting against myself.'
The excruciating pace was caused largely by Na's idiosyncratic pre-shot routine. Na is first lined up by caddie Kenny Harms, then takes seemingly forever over the ball before swinging. He takes a number of practice swings, ranging from quarter-swing waggles to complete swings with an intentional miss of the ball. If he is uncomfortable after all that, Na will back off and begin again, usually hitting quickly.
'If I don't get comfortable, well,' he said before trailing off. 'There's a lot going on in my head.'
Na is trying to reform his ways. Before playing the 16th on Friday, Na checked with a rules official to verify his group was on pace. Assured they were, Na still practically sprinted down the fairway after being the last in his second-round group to hit his tee shot.
If a player in a group placed on the clock receives a bad time for any shot, they are notified immediately by an official. The first offense is not subject to penalty. The second penalty within the same round is subject to a one-stroke penalty. A third bad time would be subject to a two-stroke penalty. A fourth in-round offense leads to a player's disqualification.
Though Na is safe from penalty in this instance, he could pay - or already be paying - for continued pacing issues.
Players can be fined by the Tour for racking up slow-play warnings over the course of the season. The first warning comes with no penalty, but a second offense results in a fine of $5,000. Each subsequent bad time for the remainder of the season costs $10,000.
If a player is a part of an out-of-position group more than nine times in a season, they are fined $20,000 on the 10th occasion. Beyond that, being put on the clock costs $5,000 per offense.