Kevin Na: Why He Has His Name on His Bag

Kevin Na decided that he’d had enough of the derision over his slow play at the Players Championship. Ostracism is a great motivator (What have I been saying about the ego!). So he took last week off and went home to Las Vegas to make up a new pre-shot routine, one that didn’t have all of the distracting waggles and balks.

And he came up with a pretty good one. As Richard Durrett writes in “Kevin Na quickens pace at Colonial,” at ESPNDallas.com:

Na’s new routine has no waggles and takes little time. He takes one practice swing when he’s at the ball, then puts the club behind the ball, looks at the target, sets his feet, and when he feels comfortable — and it didn’t take him long to feel comfortable Thursday — he takes the club back and hits the ball.

Thursday morning on the Golf Channel’s, “Morning Drive,” Gary Williams, Brandell Chamblee and Jason Sobel, all agreed that changing a pre-shot routine is one of the toughest things to do. In fact, so tough that Chamblee said it was the kind of thing you would normally only attempt in the off-season. Na didn’t feel like he had the time.

So it was of great interest to see how he fared Thursday morning after just a week’s work, particularly because he was coming to the tight and strategically demanding Colonial track…and the wind was a big factor all day: 10 to 15 gusting to 25 Tommy Gainey said.

And in those conditions, Na shot Even par, 3 birdies, 3 bogeys. And what was interesting is that he was so consumed with making sure the pre-shot routine was under control that he didn’t pay much attention to his swing. Durrett again:

“Every shot is hard,” Na said. “I’m constantly thinking about it. I’m not even thinking about my golf swing. That’s kind of hurting me a little bit because I always have a swing thought, but right now, I have no swing thought. I don’t have time to have a swing thought. I’ve just got to think about my pre-shot routine, get ready and go.”

Na even admitted that a few times at the top of his backswing he thought: “I can’t believe I’m already here.”

The dislocation involved in something like this is hard to overstate because after a while, your pre-shot routine is an indelible stamp on who you are as a golfer. When you change something as fundamental as that, you have to take something that has become borderline instinctual and degrade it to rote physical motions again. No wonder he has no time for swing thoughts.

I must say that I thought he would be as many as 4 or 5-over par with all that going on. That he shot Even par is a testament to what a skilled player he is and it should be quite captivating to see if the tournament finishes before Na’s brain turns to jelly, yet another measure of just how hard this is.

Durrett’s post has some rich detail in it and is worth the quick read.

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