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Na turning consistency into wins - plural

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Ask casual golf fans about Kevin Na, and his name will likely draw a certain level of recognition.

Some might reference his reputation for slow play. Others could recall his issues pulling the trigger at The Players in 2012, while his antics chasing after putts alongside Tiger Woods at the same course this year would surely draw a few mentions.

But what might not get as much attention is the calling card of what has been a lucrative professional career: consistency. At age 35, Na has spent nearly half his life playing for pay, and his win Sunday at the Charles Schwab Challenge sent him over $30 million in career earnings. In an era when even decorated Tour pros struggle to keep up for certain stretches, Na has been inside the top 100 in the world rankings every week since March 2014.

It's a strong list of credentials, one befitting a player of his talent. But as his close at Colonial demonstrated, Na is transforming that consistency into wins - plural.

When Na broke through for victory last summer at The Greenbrier, it was an emotional watershed. He had at that point just one PGA Tour win to his credit, that coming in Las Vegas in 2011, and since had endured a number of close calls while becoming an easily-accessed example of a player whose talent exceeded his trophy haul. But that all ended in the West Virginia mountains, where Na turned a close battle into a five-shot win with a closing 64.

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It was a similar story Sunday at Colonial, where Na has had plenty of prior success and where he vaulted into contention with a second-round 62. Prior to teeing off with a two-shot lead over five players, Na took a moment to admire the wall of champions that sits just off the opening tee box and serves as a monument to the iconic club's history.

"When I was standing on the first tee, I looked at that wall and in my head I engraved my name on it," Na said.

About four hours later, he closed out a clinical performance on a demanding track with a 12-foot birdie putt on the final green, clinching a four-shot win and ensuring that the tournament folks would take care of the engraving.

While Na was alone atop the 54-hole leaderboard, a significant amount of attention went to the players in close pursuit: Jordan Spieth, a winner in 2016, Jim Furyk and Tony Finau. But instead it was Na who erased any lingering doubt with a strong start to his final round, turning in a 4-under 66 to slip into the coveted plaid jacket that has eluded him in years past.

"I think me winning Greenbrier last year has obviously taken a lot of pressure off," Na told reporters. "There is always pressure, but it's taken a lot of a load off, weight off my shoulders. I think it helped today."

Na turned some heads with his candid comments earlier this week, lamenting a missed cut at Bethpage Black on a course where he felt he couldn't contend and instead identifying Colonial as one of the seven or eight courses where he arrived with the belief that a win was possible.

And while the stats bear out that this is one of his most fertile hunting grounds, Na may have sold short his abilities with that quip. After all, a handful of favorable courses aren't enough to make it to the Tour Championship in six of the last 10 years, as he has.

Na's game has translated into success throughout a number of seasons and on a variety of courses. Colonial just happened to be the place where his confidence bubbled to the surface. 

No longer burdened by questions over a victory drought, Na leaned on that confidence Sunday and left the field in his wake. It's another victory for a player who might not be done turning years of consistency into emphatic victories.

"Took me a while to get my first win, and the second win I had so many close calls," Na said. "People said, 'You're going to win, you're going to win,' but until it happens, you just never know. After I won Greenbrier I knew that it wasn't going to be too long until I got my third one."