Na Making his Mark in Hilton Head

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- This pro golf thing is pretty cool for 20-year-old Kevin Na.
 
Na showed that Friday in the MCI Heritage with a nifty 3-under 68 that left him three strokes behind leader Ben Curtis.
 
And Na, the PGA Tour's youngest member, expects to hang around on the weekend at Harbour Town.
 
'I think for the first win, guys just breaking through, obviously you need to play well,' Na said. 'But you need some luck going your way. And yes, I do think I can win.'
 
He's certainly enjoying his first PGA season. Why not?
 
His father is there to help with his swing and give mental tips. His mother? 'She makes sure I eat right and sleep on time, keeps me focused and keeps me a good boy,' Na said, grinning.
 
That's part of the reason Na, whose family moved from South Korea to the United States when he was 8, bypassed a chance to go to UCLA or Arizona State.
 
There, he would have to split time between golf and school. He wanted the focus on the golf course, not the philosophy course.
 
'I thought I'd come out ahead of the guy that went through college, and hopefully in that four years, I'd be on the tour,' Na said.
 
A lot of college players wouldn't mind trading places with Na.
 
He birdied four of his opening six holes to overtake first-round leader Cameron Beckman. Then Na's inexperience came through. He chunked a chip for a bogey on the 16th hole, and later took a double-bogey on the par-3 fourth. He rebounded one last time with a chip-in birdie on the ninth.
 
Na has played well in the past month. He finished fourth in the Honda Classic and 28th in the BellSouth Classic after missing three straight cuts.
 
Na said the Honda performance made him 'more relaxed, (I) wasn't rushing anything. So I think that was a big turnaround for me.'
 
A victory at Harbour Town would be a major one for Curtis, the British Open champion and PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2003 who's struggled at times this season. Curtis shot a season-best 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Heath Slocum.
 
Curtis is atop the leaderboard for just the second time since raising the claret jug last July. He is eager to prove he's not the best major champion never to win on tour.
 
'I know I'm the Open champion, but at the same time you have to look past it and look to the future, not always rely on the past,' Curtis said. 'I want to prove that it was no fluke.'
 
So far, so good.
 
Curtis finished at 8-under 134, one better than Slocum, who shot a 67. Ted Purdy had a 67 and was two strokes off the lead, while Darren Clarke (66), Patrick Sheehan (66), John Huston (68), Na and 50-year-old Jay Haas (69) were three strokes back.
 
Curtis, who won at Royal St. George's as the 396th ranked player in the world, earned more than $1.4 million last season and was voted the tour's rookie of the year. But he has struggled to balance perks such as meeting the president and throwing out the first pitch at an Indians game with success on tour.
 
Curtis arrived at Harbour Town 114th on the money list and having made just one cut in his five previous tournaments, at Bay Hill. He's hoping Harbour Town helps him break through again.
 
'It could be,' Curtis said, smiling. 'I'm not going to make any predictions.'
 
On Friday, Curtis had a little luck on his side.
 
Curtis ranks 169th in putting this season, down from 151st in 2003. But he holed out three times, including a 109-yard wedge shot for an eagle-2 at No. 1. He also chipped in from 39 yards on the third hole and from 25 feet off the green at No. 15 -- both for birdies.
 
'Three zero putts,' he said. 'I haven't had three zero putts in a month.'
 
He rarely plays this well on tour. He shot a 64 at the WCG-NEC Invitational and tied Sergio Garcia for the first-round lead last August. But Curtis faded with rounds of 76-72-70.
 
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