Na takes 1-shot lead into final round at Colonial

By Associated PressMay 23, 2015, 7:30 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas - The last time Kevin Na took the lead into the final round of a tournament, he faltered badly.

For Ian Poulter, though he laughs about it, there is that anonymous survey of PGA Tour players done by Sports Illustrated where he and Rickie Fowler tied as the most overrated player on tour.

Na and Poulter both have a chance to change perceptions at Colonial.

With a birdie on the 17th hole Saturday, after the pair played from almost the same spot, Na regained the outright lead for a one-stroke advantage over Poulter going into the final round at a very damp Hogan's Alley.

"When it comes to crunch time, you've got to trust your stroke and just stay in the moment," Na said when asked about a chance for his second PGA Tour victory Sunday.

At The Players Championship three years ago, Na led after 54 holes before closing with a 76. He shared the second-round lead there this month before Fowler's victory that Poulter alluded to this week.

"Rickie went out there and obviously made amends," Poulter said, referring to the SI survey.

Na shot a 1-under 69 on Saturday, a round that included a couple of bogeys, to reach 11-under 199. Poulter had a 68.

Poulter made a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7 for a share of the lead at 10 under. He was still part of the lead after a sand save at No. 9, where he blasted to 6 feet from a bunker to save par.


Crowne Plaza Invitational: Articles, videos and photos


But he dropped out of the lead after starting the back nine with a four-putt double bogey from 16 feet at No. 10. A 3-footer on his third putt doing a U-turn around the cup without going in, though he got one of those strokes back with a 6-foot birdie putt at the 635-yard 11th.

Poulter got even again with a 32-foot birdie putt at No. 15, the same hole Na two-putted from 6 feet after his approach missed the green.

"Pleased with how I played, just a little mishap there on 10," Poulter said. "It didn't break, and then a few more putts it took to get in the hole."

With their golf balls close to each other on the 17th green, Poulter had a 15-foot birdie try that slid by the hole. But Na then made his 14-footer after watching no break in Poulter's putt.

"I trusted my read, a little outside right and it turned nicely into the hole," Na said. "It was nice because I was under par going into the last hole."

With the leaders teeing off at 9:10 a.m., and playing in threesomes instead of the normal weekend twosomes, play was completed about 2 p.m. Saturday. That was about 3 1/2 hours earlier than usual for a weekend round for Colonial leaders.

PGA Tour officials moved up play because of the threat of severe afternoon storms. There were overcast and muggy conditions, with some light rain but no delays. Heavy rain was forecast overnight and into Sunday, with plans again for threesomes and early tee times off both Nos. 1 and 10 for the final round.

Charley Hoffman has third at 9 under after a 66. Chris Kirk, a two-time PGA Tour winner last season, had a 65 for the best round of the day and was tied for fourth at 8 under with Brandt Snedeker (66).

Defending champion Adam Scott carded his second consecutive 66 since an opening 72. He was tied for 10th at 6 under in a group that included Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Masters champion from Dallas playing the first of consecutive weeks at home in North Texas.

Spieth, the first-round co-leader after a 64, followed his second-round 73 with a 67.

George McNeill got off to a fast start, with four birdies on the first six holes, matching Na at 10 under after the second-round leader had already given back the stroke he earned with his 16-foot birdie putt at No. 3.

Na had a bogey at No. 5, the par 4 along the Trinity River that is the hardest hole on the course. Na hit a tee shot into the hazard and had to take a penalty drop.

McNeill, playing in the group directly ahead of Na, rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at No. 5 and an 11-footer at No. 6 to get to 10 under. But McNeill hit his drive at No. 12 into the rough and wound up with the first of three bogeys in five holes. He was 7 under after a 69.

Getty Images

Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

Getty Images

Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

Getty Images

Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

Getty Images

Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”