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Na Disappointed with Finish in Players Championship but Ready to Move On
Kevin Na wasn't able to close out the Players Championship like he'd hoped. Despite a propensity for waggling and balking at pulling the trigger on full shots, the 28-year-old found himself leading golf's richest tournament by a stroke after 54 holes.
But, playing in the final twosome with Matt Kuchar, Na struggled Sunday. After starting out promisingly with a birdie on the par-5 second, Na had two straight pars before bogeys on four of the next five holes to make the turn in 3-over 39. Na birdied the par-5 11th, but bogeyed the next two to fall too far behind eventual champion Kuchar. Na ended up with a 4-over 76 and a T-7 finish.
Like he was in last year's Valero Texas Open, when he carded the highest score ever on a par-4 during a tournament - a 16 on the ninth hole at TPC San Antonio, Na showed class and a sense of humor when discussing his performance Sunday evening.
But he did say that he got irked at some heckling fans on the ninth hole in the final round. "I don't want to say upset, but that was a little disappointed at the crowd," Na said. "Like I said, most of the people were great, but there's always some hecklers out there, like I was getting ready to get over the ball and you can just hear them saying, hit it, and I just got over the ball.
"And I backed off and they're booing me. I said, look, guys I backed off because of you guys. It's not like I backed off because I couldn't pull the trigger. But it is what it is. But I also felt that a lot of people were turning towards me and pulling for me, which I really appreciate. You know, like I said, I'm going to work on it, and my game is good. I'm playing well. I feel a 'W' coming this year."
Here's what else Na told reporters during a post-round Q&A.
Q. Obviously disappointed, had bigger hopes for the day. Tell us how you feel.
KEVIN NA: Well, it was a big disappointment, but I'm happy for Matt. He played very well today, played solid all day. You know, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I had a lot of people heckling me out there, also people pulling for me, which I appreciated. You know, I got off to a good start and just a couple mistakes here and there, and the wheels started kind of falling off a little bit, and I started - when I should have probably played a little conservative when the wheels - when I got behind a little bit, I think I played aggressive and trying to catch up to Matt, which made it worse. It's a disappointing day, but overall it was a positive week. I'm going to take the positive from this week and try to go win another golf tournament later.
Q. It's hard enough to close out a victory, but with people heckling you, how difficult was it?
KEVIN NA: It is what it is. I do need to work on what I need to - I do need to work on my pre shot routine. I do need to play faster. But the average golfer has no clue how much pressure we're playing under and how tough it is and how much of a fight for it it is mentally. I honestly think with all that going on, I did pretty well fighting. I had a good fight. I hung in there, so you know what, I just take the positives from it.
Q. What was the thing that was most hurtful, I suppose, from what you heard today?
KEVIN NA: You know, when I'm over the ball, it would be nice if it was quiet. But just guys, you can hear them talking, like pull the trigger, pull the trigger, hit it, which makes me back off even more. So that part was a bit tough. But like I said, it was a rough day and Matt played great, so he deserves it.
Q. What happened on 9 when you got upset?
KEVIN NA: Yeah, I was a little bit - I don't want to say upset, but that was a little disappointed at the crowd. Like I said, most of the people were great, but there's always some hecklers out there, like I was getting ready to get over the ball and you can just hear them saying, hit it, and I just got over the ball. And I backed off and they're booing me. I said, look, guys I backed off because of you guys. It's not like I backed off because I couldn't pull the trigger. But it is what it is. But I also felt that a lot of people were turning towards me and pulling for me, which I really appreciate. You know, like I said, I'm going to work on it, and my game is good. I'm playing well. I feel a W coming this year.
Q. Was there too much being said about the -
KEVIN NA: Yeah.
Q. Did it ever get you out of -
KEVIN NA: Honestly, I was trying to - that's my main thought was trying to play fast. I know the whole world is watching. I'm trying to play as fast as I could. I was 40 yards ahead of Matt basically trying to sprint out to my ball so I can get to extra time, until the back nine Matt and I slowed down and started talking because we got behind and I just started letting the caddie run up and get the yardage and started walking slow, and I started talking to Matt, and Matt goes, yeah, I haven't been able to talk to you.
I said, Matt, look, I'm trying to help you out by playing fast and run up there. He goes, I know, I was telling Lance, his caddie, that he appreciated that I was running up there trying to get in time to help my fellow competitor not feel like I'm slowing him down. So that was a nice thing for Matt to say to me.
Q. Did you ever have to put up with that before, that kind of heckling?
KEVIN NA: Well, no, not really. But honestly part of it, I deserve it. I mean, I'm being honest. But is it fair, no. You put an average guy in between those ropes, trust me, they won't even pull it back.
Q. Do you feel or does part of you feel that changing the way that you play golf today as you did today contributed to you shooting 76 instead of -
KEVIN NA: Because I was rushing? A little bit. A little bit. You know, but the thing is, I played poorly. I mean, what can I say? I didn't do things right, and I had a couple poor putts. Things started going the wrong way, and when things are going the wrong way and you're trying to play fast, those don't add up very well.
Q. Does any sort of guilt set in when you feel like you're taking longer than you should?
KEVIN NA: I feel like I did a decent job today, I really did. I kept up. We were waiting, if anything, most of the front nine. We kept up. We fell back a little bit, but it wasn't due to slow play, it was due to poor play. I was hitting a lot of shots, just kept making bogeys, and you can't do anything about that. I felt I did a really good job keeping up today, and I felt pretty good.
Q. You had an awful lot of people out there rooting for you, as well.
KEVIN NA: Definitely, I felt that. I appreciate all the people that are rooting for me, and I can hear people rooting for me. There's always that couple guys out there that kind of get on your nerves, but it is what it is, and I'm just going to take the positive and filter through and be happy.
Q. You said you're going to work on it. What plans do you have to work on it?
KEVIN NA: I'm going to try to take out the whole waggle, no waggle. I'm going to try to do a little up and down behind the ball, but it's going to take time, practice and tournaments, and I'm going to try to take out the whole waggle. Honestly, it's going to be a battle.
Q. You said that you have to do it in pairs or something. Is there anything else that you do in your life that you have to do in pairs?
KEVIN NA: I don't know. Nothing I can think of in my head. It's not so much the pair, it's just the timing. Because I do two waggles and my putting stroke is two strokes, it's just what I'm comfortable with is a pair.
Q. Matt has that little idiosyncrasy where he lifts before he hits it. Would that be something -
KEVIN NA: Well, that works for Matt, that doesn't mean it's going to work for me.
Q. What can you do to eliminate that waggle?
KEVIN NA: I don't know. Like I said, I'm going to work on it, and it is what it is. I take the positives, and that's it.
Q. Are you afraid that you've been pretty successful on Tour being this idiosyncratic guy that if you do all these changes -
KEVIN NA: No, my game is still going to be the same. I think so. I think it'll only help me.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.