Kevin Na deserves a seriously hearty golf clap and tip o’ the visor for completely overhauling his approach to the game.
The 28-year-old golfer, whose maddeningly meticulous pre-shot routine at The Players Championship shone a spotlight on slow play in golf, unveiled a new look during Thursday’s opening round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational. The wiggles, squirms, back-offs and intentional whiffs were nowhere to be seen, as Na scored an even-par 70. Instead, the guy whom goons mercilessly ridiculed for his quirky methods during The Players sped his way around Colonial Country Club with very few rehearsal shots.
It was all part of the plan -- one that Na has worked on since The Players, he told PGATour.com after a round in which he carded three birdies and three bogeys. In fact, pace of play has been Na’s sole concern since his final round at TPC Sawgrass on May 13.
"It’s the only thought I had," Na said. "This is all I’m going to do. This is all I’m going to think about and I’m going to get it done.”
Na made his modifications, which involved limiting himself to one practice swing per shot, pretty much at the speed of light. "I’m actually surprised how quickly I’m doing this,” he said, noting that his alacrity was always on his mind.
"I’m constantly thinking about it,” Na averred. “I’m not even thinking about my golf swing ... I always have a swing thought but right now I don’t have time to have a swing thought. Just got to think about my pre-shot routine and get ready and go."
Na said that his new approach probably hurt his score -- like when he decided against backing off of a 30-foot uphill birdie putt on the par-4 seventh and ended up making bogey -- but he sounded determined to revamp his entire M.O.
“If I’m going to fix it, I’m going to do it right now," he said. "I’m not going to go little by little. I’m going to change the whole thing."
Another golfer formerly renowned for his unsightly waggles and twitches, Sergio Garcia, made some alterations to his game plan as well. Garcia’s, however, involved the guy handing him his clubs.
Gone from Garcia’s bag was his long-time caddie, Glen Murray, in favor of Gary Matthews.
"Glen and I, we’ve been together for a long time," Garcia told reporters after carding a 66 (his best showing since last September when he posted a 65 in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship). He is now just two shots back of Zach Johnson's 18-hole lead.
"We probably needed a little bit of a break," Garcia said. "We will see what happens. I’m just trying to find out what’s going on."
Murray had been with Garcia -- except for a short stint during which Matthews was on the bag -- since the Spaniard began his professional career in 1999.
Change was definitely in the Fort Worth, Texas air, as Harris English’s decision to swap a 4-iron for a fourth wedge paid immediate dividends for the 22-year-old rookie. Impressed with Rickie Fowler’s four-wedge display in his Wells Fargo Championship victory earlier this month, English switched his sticks and shot a 65 on Thursday to sit one off Johnson’s pace.
Now, instead of 47-, 54- and 60-degree wedges, English carries a 47, 51, 56 and 61. The difference, he hoped, would elevate his wedge play from “the bottom of the pack,” he told reporters.
“Over 225 yards, I think I was second or third in greens in regulation and proximity to the hole,” he said, noting that he had so many shots under 150 yards that “it was kind of a dumb decision” not to add another wedge to his weaponry.
So far, so good for the University of Georgia graduate, who set a course record of 60 on his way to firing the low round in Monday’s British Open qualifier at nearby Gleneagles. English was pleased with the smaller gaps in yardage that his new wedges offered.
"I feel like I'm getting a lot better numbers on my wedges and not having half shots and that makes a big difference,” he said. “It’s left me a lot shorter putts."