Kevin Na Leading at Colonial in Fort Worth
Kevin Na proved today that he isn’t just putting in a brief appearance before retiring into obscurity. He’s made some moves on recent tournaments, and as of today, he’s leading the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth on the legendary course at Colonial. He’s doing it in spite of some “Biblical” weather that has been hitting Texas lately, but the tournament has moved forward, even though Na’s final drive on Friday was swept away by rapidly flowing water. Recent climatic conditions haven’t been the whole story, though. The 1949 version of the Colonial was cancelled from severe flooding.
Na holds a one-stroke lead over Ian Poulter going into the final round, while the surging Jordan Spieth, anxious to prove that he’s not a flash-in-the-pan, either (as if anyone could believe that he is) slipped to five shots back at 6 under. Na has certainly not impressed with his long game, finding the center of the fairway on about half of his drives. Saturday, he hit only nine greens in regulation, but did he found the magic with the putter, rolling in par putt after par putt, some over six feet in length. Along the way, he’s rolled in a few giants, like a 30 footer for birdie on Friday. He’s even done well with the stretch of 3, 4, and 5, the Colonial counterpart to Augusta’s “Amen Corner.” Golfers in Fort Worth call it the “Horrible Horseshoe.”
This is not the Kevin Na who was held captive by the yips through the last year. In fact, he looks about as unyippy as a professional golfer can look. He’s picked the right course to avoid them as well. It’s a tough one, and holds many legends in its past. Of the past greats, Ben Hogan is the leading figure, winning here on five occasions. Annika Sorenstam played a PGA event here, and despite not making the cut, earned a lot of kudos from the men. The pond on 18 has come, since the year of ’62, to be known as “Crampton’s Lake,” as Bruce Crampton made it a habit of hooking approach shots into the center of it.
George Burns, the golfer, not the actor and comedian, scored the first and only double eagle there with a 1-iron from about 200 yards out, and the now senior player Kenny Perry holds the record for winning by the most strokes – by 7 in 2005. Zach Johnson holds most of the scoring records. Colonial doesn’t seem to pay much attention to age. It kills you with tactical difficulty more than with raw distance. Jordan Spieth, for example, finds himself tied with Vijay Singh.
So, the yip-ridden Na is suddenly on the verge of becoming this week’s toast of the tour. The 167 pounder is joining the new breed of golfers who can produce distance without weighing in at John Daly numbers. His ranking has soared to #23 in the world, and even if he doesn’t win on Sunday, he’s put together a laudable string of appearances, while reasonably expecting more. If Na is going to play like this, he also picked the right week to do well. This week’s tournament sports a healthy purse, with the winner to take home a check for well over one and a half million. Na might even be the crowd favorite for the last group, unless Spieth mounts a rally. Trailing by one, Ian Poulter, from the UK, is not a favorite among American fans.