What we learned: The Players


Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week we learned a lot about having to endure watching Kevin Na and his stop-start pre-shot routine.

I learned that there should be a new PGA Tour statistic: Money Putting. It would measure how much players win or lose on the final green of a tournament. Sure, there's more to professional golf than earning cash, but the 72nd hole is where players can breathe, take stock of the situation and know their bank statement can be helped by rolling one in. I also learned that as impressive as Rickie Fowler has been the past two weeks, he wouldn't want to check this stat right now. Tied with three others on the final hole, Fowler had a 7-foot birdie putt to claim solo second place. He missed it. The differential: Exactly $399,000. – Jason Sobel

I learned that Kevin Na is going to have to accomplish a lot on the course for fans to think of him in a positive light. Do a Google search on him and the following pop up: 'Kevin Na slow play'; 'Kevin Na 16'; 'Kevin Na whiff'. After watching this Saturday's bizarre incidents, we may soon see these suggested searches: 'Kevin Na psychiatrist'; 'Kevin Na and Steve Blass'. Na's growing reputation continued to go the wrong way this week. – Mercer Baggs

I learned pace of play is a deceptive problem. Kevin Na was thrust into the spotlight this week for his waggles, intentional misses and head fakes which drove fans and peers mad. 

Na handled it as best he could, deflecting some criticism with captivating candor and levity about what can be labeled a psychological malady. For as charming as Na was in providing color on his problem, the truth remains that it's still a problem.

Like trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket, having a great story should not be an excuse for slow play. It should come with stiff penalties, even with $1.71 million to the winner on the line. 

Na is working through a major swing change with coach Dale Lynch, and he will fight through the waggles as he gains confidence. Then he will charm us with his golf, not the wait for it.

Hopefully a year from now, Na will look back at this episode and laugh at how far, how fast he has come. – Ryan Ballengee

I knew Matt Kuchar’s smile was good, but I didn’t know it was this good.

It’s the most disarming smile in golf.

The wicked architect Pete Dye couldn’t wipe it off Kuchar’s face Sunday at The Players Championship. Dye’s demanding 16th, 17th and 18th finishing holes couldn’t either. Even Kevin Na couldn’t stop that smile with his neurotic pre-shot routine.

Here’s the thing about it: When Kuchar’s face lights up, an opponent’s soul darkens. That smile is trouble. Fans may love the little upturn of his lips, but fellow players must hate it. It’s a hungry fox’s smile. – Randall Mell

That TPC Sawgrass may not be the best venue to produce epic finishes. Just once since the move to May has there been more than one player from the top 10 in the world golf ranking in the top 10 on Sunday at The Players, but it is arguably the best stage in golf, as evidenced by eventual champion Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler’s birdie exchange at Nos. 16 and 17. Exactly what Pete Dye had in mind. – Rex Hoggard

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