Kevin Na survived an afternoon tee time in less-than-favorable conditions on Thursday. He made it through a fan’s “cackle” during a bunker shot on No. 11 during Saturday’s round that led to a double-bogey.
Nothing could derail him this week, though, not on a course that he’s mastered over the years.
Na pulled away in impressive fashion Sunday, carding a 4-under 66 en route to a four-stroke victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Any charge made Sunday by fellow players proved to be short-lived.
“I’m so proud of him and the way that he played all four days,” said Kenny Harms, Na’s caddie for the last 11 years.
“The way he handled No. 11 yesterday with the lady, and [Thursday’s conditions]. There’s always someone looking after us. It’s special.”
Na earned $1.314 million for his winning score of 13-under 267, and had the biggest margin of victory since Kenny Perry won by seven strokes in 2005. Tony Finau finished second at 9-under followed by a two-way tie for third between Andrew Putnam and C.T. Pan at 8-under.
For Na, his third career PGA Tour victory is something he envisioned from the start Sunday.
“On the first tee I saw that wall, looked at the name right below, Justin Rose, and in my head I engraved my name in it in my head,” Na said. “Just trying to visualize success before I tee’d off.”
The South Korean followed that vision by playing well early on. He stuck his approach shot to within five feet for a birdie on No. 2. He drained a 33-footer for birdie on No. 4, going through the “Horrible Horseshoe” at 1-under par.
Na then rolled in an eight-footer for birdie on No. 6. He bogeyed No. 7, missing a seven-footer to save par, but responded by draining a 20-footer for birdie on No. 8.
He had another bogey on No. 10, missing a five-footer, but parred No. 11 a day after he double-bogeyed one of the easiest holes after a fan’s “cackle” distracted him during a greenside bunker shot.
Na closed the deal when he rolled in nine-footer for birdie on No. 14, as every challenger faded. A birdie on No. 18 simply served as icing on the cake.
“I knew this is one of the places I can definitely win,” said Na, who won The Greenbrier in West Virginia last July. “I really look forward to coming here, having a chance. To be able to do it today, it’s a great feeling.”
Na played himself into contention with an 8-under 62 on Friday after opening the tournament with an even-par 70 during windy conditions on Thursday afternoon. A 1-under 69 on Saturday gave him a two-shot lead going into the final round.
There were plenty of contenders in a five-way tie for second at 7-under going into Sunday, just two shots back of Na.
The biggest name in the group was hometown favorite Jordan Spieth, but Spieth struggled out of the gates.
He missed a 12-footer for birdie on No. 1, and then bogeyed No. 2. On No. 2, he hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker and later missed a 14-footer to save par. Spieth birdied No. 2 in each of the first three rounds.
He ran into trouble again on No. 7 when his drive found the left rough, leading to his second bogey of the day. He missed an 11-footer for birdie on No. 9, and missed the fairway again on No. 11.
Spieth made his only birdie of the day on No. 18, carding a 2-over 72. It marked his worst round at Colonial since a 3-over 73 in the second round of the 2015 tournament.
“Just a tough start,” said Spieth, who tied for eighth at 5-under. “I felt like I only missed four swings today. I felt like I hit the ball better today. I putted the same as every other round, burned a lot of lips.
“But I was swinging the club better today than the entire week. It’s just kind of funny how the score won’t show it.”
Spieth simply didn’t make the lengthy putts like he had in the previous rounds. Spieth made at least 127 feet of putts in each of his first three rounds, but rolled in just 46 feet of putts on Sunday.
“I just misread a number of putts today just by half a cup,” Spieth said. “Just get days like that sometimes.”
Colleyville resident Ryan Palmer made a charge with three birdies on the front nine, but he found greenside bunkers and failed to get up-and-down for consecutive bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12.
Jim Furyk, who was part of the 7-under group to start the day, saw his chances fade on the par-3 13th when his tee shot landed in the water, leading to a double bogey. That followed a bogey on No. 12 for Furyk.
Finau stayed within striking distance, rolling in a 15-footer for birdie on No. 9 to get to 9-under, but he didn’t make a birdie again until No. 18. A bogey on No. 16 ended his dreams.
“[Na] wasn’t letting up, so I knew I was going to have to make three or four birdies coming in,” Finau said. “I gave myself the looks to do it; just wasn’t able to make it happen.”
Putnam climbed up the leaderboard with a 4-under 66 to tie for third, but couldn’t catch Na. Mackenzie Hughes was paired with Na in the final group following a 5-under 65 on Saturday, but made just one birdie in his round of 2-over 72.
Pan played solid, but made just two birdies on the day.
In the end, the day and tournament belonged to Na, who tied a course record with a 61 in the final round last year. He’s more than happy with his 66 this time around.
“You knew he could do it when he’s shot a 61 here, and then shoots a 62 on Friday to get right back in it,” Harms said. “He played fantastic the entire tournament.”