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Slowcoach Na returns to bury his demons in Texas Open

| 26.03.2014

The Valero Texas Open has been won in the past by such golfing greats as Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer, but is probably best remembered these days for the extraordinary incident on the 9th hole in 2011 when Kevin Na racked up a 16, the worst score ever recorded on a par 4 by the USPGA.

South Korean-born Na found himself an unplayable lie in the woods and then…well, there’s no need to go into unpleasant detail; every hacker’s been there. The difference is that Na had the composure to play the other 17 holes in four under.

And now Na is back for some more and a 33/1 shot with Coral (8/1 to finish top five, 5/2 top ten) after going close in the Valspar Championship a fortnight ago and then finishing in the top 20 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last weekend.

The Las Vegas resident is a controversial figure, being arguably the slowest player on the US Tour. He was heckled at the Arnold Palmer, the mood only lightened when fans turned up sporting T-shirts which read: ‘Kevin Na is worth the wait’.

Slow play isn’t a funny matter, but with Na it’s a mental problem as much as anything else. You may well remember him having problems ‘pulling the trigger’ with his driver later in 2011 when the pressure was on in the only tournament he has ever won on the USPGA tour.

Everybody has different ways of preparing for the US Masters and many of those who didn’t appear in last week’s tournament are pitching up here, including Phil Mickelson (16/1 joint favourite with Zach Johnson), Matt Kuchar (18/1) and golden boy Jordan Spieth (20/1).

Others with Georgia very much on their mind are Ryan Palmer (25/1) and Chesson Hadley (50/1), who both need good finishes to secure a place in the Augusta line-up, and three-time major winner, Padraig Harrington (100/1), who actually needs to win it.

World-ranked 11 Kuchar seems to be running back into top form at just the right time and could prove the best bet amongst the market leaders, while it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Martin Laird (40/1 with Coral, 10/1 to finish top five, 3/1 top ten) made it back-to-back Texas Open triumphs.

The Glasgow-born, US-based 31-year-old shot a stunning final round 63 last year to beat Rory McIlroy and insists his game is in better shape going into this title defence than it was 12 months ago, even though results suggest otherwise.





Jon Freeman