Paul Anthony Arco

The Takeaway

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Better Late Than Never

Monday, October 03, 2011


This might finally get golf fans off Kevin Na’s back for his fiasco at the Texas Valero Open.

 

On Sunday in his hometown of Las Vegas, Na birdied three straight holes on the back nine to beat Nick Watney by two strokes to win the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

 

It was Na’s first PGA TOUR win in 211 career starts.

 

For Na, who finished No. 71 in the final FedExCup standings, the win helped ease the pain of a rough year so far.

 

Na, who has three runner-up finishes in his career, set a record, if you can call it that, earlier this year for the worst par-4 hole in the PGA Tour record books, shooting a 16 at the Texas Open.

 

His tee shot landed in the woods. He called it unplayable and teed off again. He whiffed one stroke, bounced another off his thigh, tried two shots left-handed and watched the ball sputter on another stroke. He finished the round with an 8-over 80, but managed a smile when it was over.

 

Na had plenty to smile about on Sunday.

 

He finished with a 6-under 65 for a 23-under 261 total at TPC Summlerin in the Fall Series opener. Watney, who was tied with Na coming into Sunday, shot a 67. He caught Na on No. 14 before Na pulled away with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 before dropping a 42-foot birdie putt on No. 17.

 

Tommy Gainey and Paul Goydos both shot 66 for a T3 at 18 under, and David Hearn (65), Carl Pettersson (68), Jhonattan Vegas (68), Tim Herron (69) and Spencer Levin (68) were up next at 17 under.

 

Na, who didn’t take up golf until he was nine, becomes the 13th first-time winner on the PGA TOUR this season. There were 15 last season.

 

And his nightmare at the Texas Open is a thing of the past.

 

<b>Out of the Woods<b>

 

The last time Tiger Woods was out of the top 50 in the world ranking Michael Jordan had just led the Chicago Bulls to a record-breaking 72 win season and good guy wrestler Hulk Hogan turned villain.

 

Woods, who hasn’t tasted victory in nearly two years, was dropped from the top 50 when Louis Oosthuizen finished in a three-way T5 in the Dunhill Links Championship.

 

That ends a streak of 778 straight weeks inside the top 50, going back to October 13, 1996, when Woods was No. 61.

 

Woods, who has not played since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, is expected to play this week at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle. When Woods steps up to the first tee box, he will have a new caddy, Joe LaCava, who left Dustin Johnson.

 

It will interesting to what impact, if any, a new caddie has on Woods’ game.

 

<b>Dunhill Links Championship<b>

 

Up until now, Michael Hoey was best known for winning the British Amateur title 10 years ago. That will change after outdueling Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to take the Dunhill Links Championship by two shots on Sunday.

 

Hoey led by three strokes heading into the final round. He nearly coughed it up before birdies on three of the last four holes. Hoey finished with a 4-under 68 and 22-under total to break Lee Westwood’s tournament record by one shot.

 

McIlroy, who started the day five strokes behind, shot a final-round 65 for second place. McDowell (69) and George Murray (67) finished T3. McDowell had plenty of chances to make things interesting, but made only one birdie on the back nine.

 

<b>Asian Amateur Championship<b>

 

The Asian Amateur Championship could be renamed the Hideki Matsuyama Open.

 

Matsuyama played 42 straight holes without a bogey Sunday to finish 5-under 67 to win the Championship for the second straight year.

 

A year ago, Matsuyama won by five shots.

 

More importantly, the win gave the 19-year-old Matsuyama another invite to Augusta to play in the Masters; he also is exempt into the final stage of British Open qualifying next spring.

 

He was T27 at the Masters this year, and was the only amateur to make the cut. Matsuyama now is No. 4 in the world amateur ranking.

 

Matsuyama has won three straight amateur events this year, including the Japan Collegiate Championship and the World University Championship.

 

<b>Stray Shots<b>

 

Herron finished T5 and moved into the top 100 on the money list. He has four career PGA TOUR wins and three top-10 finishes this year alone, but hasn’t tasted victory since 2006. He’ll get another shot next week at the Frys.com Open … Hunter Haas shot a 10-under 61 in the second round, tying the course record at TPC Summerlin.Top of Form … Louis Oosthuizen is due to play in the field at the Frys.com Open. He’s made only 13 starts on the PGA TOUR this year and needs 15 to meet the minimum requirement for members. He is fully exempt through 2015 thanks to his Open Championship title last year, so he needs two more starts to avoid a penalty …Watney has 10 top-10 finishes this year and is No. 3 on the money list. He finished No. 9 in the FedExCup standings … Defending champion Jonathan Byrd finished T40 … Jim Furyk is the only repeat winner of the event. He won back-to-back titles in 1998 and 99.



Paul Anthony Arco is a freelance writer and contributor to rotoworld.com. He is host of The Golf Show!, which airs Saturday mornings on WNTA 1330 AM (www.wnta.com) in Rockford, Ill. Paul can be reached at paul@paulanthonyarco.com
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