Na waggles his way to 54-hole lead at Players

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2012, 12:40 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Earlier this week PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem figured that stroke penalties for slow play weren’t necessary. After nine languid holes with Kevin Na on Saturday, your scribe would be curious what the commish thought of waterboarding for the habitually slow?

Na is slow. Slow like continental drifts. Slow like his Round 3 playing partner Zach Johnson was named an honorary starter for next year’s Masters by the time the two finished at TPC Sawgrass. OK, too much. But you get the picture.

Here’s the rub, Na is, regardless of pace, a good guy. Hard working, good sense of humor with a solid game that has produced just four bogeys in his last 45 holes on the Stadium Course and a third-round 68 that will give him a one-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar heading into the final day at the circuit’s flagship event.

It’s just that when he settles in over a tee shot he goes catatonic.

For those short on time, here’s a snapshot of Na’s routine on a few random holes. At No. 6 he took five practice swings, 24 waggles, two step-aways and one “Sorry Zach” before finally pulling the trigger.

At the seventh he re-teed three times, made four practice swings, 19 waggles and one step-away before getting to it.

You get the picture. Think Sergio Garcia at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black without the angry fans and obscene gestures.

To Na’s credit he owns his issues, admitting after his round “there’s a lot going on (in his head).”

That he is slow is not a guarded secret. In fact, as Na made his way up the seventh fairway on Saturday Tour rules official Mark Russell made a precautionary stop. “Look guys the group in front of you is on the clock so don’t get out of position,” he warned Na and Johnson.

Despite Na’s distressing pre-shot routine, or maybe because of it, he was almost perfect on a windswept day, closing with birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 to pull clear of Kuchar and within 18 holes of the greatest victory of his career.

However, good golf and speedy play seem to be mutually exclusive for Na, who was put on the clock late on the back nine and received a “bad time” on the 16th hole.

According to Tour regulations the player hitting first has 60 seconds to play his shot and Na exceeded that limit before playing his second shot at the par 5. Although he appealed the decision, saying that his caddie’s shadow prompted him to step away at the last minute, officials reviewed the video of the shot and assessed the bad time.

Two bad times in one round and a player is assessed a one-stroke penalty, which hasn’t happened on Tour in more than two decades and when it comes to slow play the Tour adheres to a strict short-term memory policy.

“He starts fresh tomorrow,” Russell said.

The same can’t be said for the TPC galleries who will endure what NBC Sport’s analyst Roger Maltbie called Na’s “episodes” on Saturday.

Although he’s never been a fast player by any measure, Na has become even more sluggish since he began working with swing coach Dale Lynch last year at the Masters, although this can hardly be laid in Lynch’s lap.

One of the circuit’s worst players with a driver in his hands, Na has improved to 15th in driving accuracy and 81st in total driving under Lynch compared to 56th and 145th, respectively, in 2010.

For a Tour type who played with fear from every tee box the added element of a dramatic swing change has led to more psychological baggage than a Kardashian.

“It stems from the fact he was such a poor driver of the golf ball,” Lynch said. “He’s very aware of it and trying very hard to remedy it but we haven’t been able to change his routine to match up with his swing.”

Lynch said Na has a similar routine while he’s practicing, just faster, and the affable Australian has seen progress in recent months with Na’s swing and his pace of play.

“He’s thinking swing thought . . . always has, and we have talked about it,” Lynch said.

To Na’s credit he’s taken the situation head on. No excuses, no longwinded explanations, just the type of brutal honesty that eludes many with the same ailment.

“I'm trying to get comfortable with my waggles. It's usually a little waggle, half waggle, little waggle, half waggle, and boom, supposed to pull the trigger. But if it doesn't work, I've got to go in pairs,” Na said. “So it'll go four; and if it doesn't work, it'll go six; and after that, just – there's a lot going on in my head.”

Unfortunately, it’s just not happening very quickly.

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”