2019 Charles Schwab Challenge grades: Kevin Na goes out and takes Colonial with aggressive play
Kevin Na shot a 4-under 66 when it mattered most -- in Sunday's final round
There's a fight or flight moment for most leaders in most golf tournaments, and Kevin Na experienced his on the back nine of the 2019 Charles Schwab Challenge on Sunday at Colonial. Leading by a pair through 12 holes after playing with the lead and firing a 32 on the front nine, Na went at tucked pins on both the 13th and 14th holes with trouble lurking if he missed his target by even a few yards. The 13th -- the tough par 3 that played to a scoring average over par on Sunday -- is fronted by water, and is not a pin you go at. Except Kevin Na went at it and made an easy par.
He went at the next one, too, as closest competitor Tony Finau flailed ahead of him. Na was rewarded with a birdie after hitting his approach to 9 feet with a huge runoff down the end of that hole. That was it. The fight had ended, and he played the last four in 1 under, including a walked-in birdie at the last for a 66 and four-stroke victory over Finau.
Na tied the second-best round of the day on Sunday, and while it's reductive (and silly) to say he just wanted it more, what was clear is that he went and took it when it was there for the taking. He went after the victory, and while that could have gone badly, it's what earned him his third career win.
We saw this last week with Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. When things get tight around the collar on Sunday -- and they always get tight around the collar on Sunday -- you're given every opportunity to bail out the other way. Koepka didn't then, and Na didn't here, either.
"Standing on the first tee, I looked at that wall and in my head I ingrained my name in it," Na told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports. "Sure enough, it's going to be there."
The win here is Na's second in the last two years as he took Greenbrier in 2018. He's had one of the more underrated careers of the last decade as he's finished in the top 100 of the FedEx Cup rankings in 11 of the last 12 years (and 12 of 13 after this one is over). But he had only won once up until about a year ago.
Can we attribute that to more aggressive play when the chips are down on Sunday? Maybe, maybe not, but what I do know is that it was riveting to watch him put the pedal down around the final turn and grab his first win of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2019 Charles Schawb Challenge.
Tony Finau (2): Man, I get why the bucket of top 10s is great -- heck, I'm a proponent of it -- but in lieu of all these T3s and solo fourth-place finishes, I want to see Finau win something. I want to see him go and get it on a Sunday when he's right there like he was at Colonial.
Finau trailed by two with six holes left, and he hit some pretty poor shots coming in, including a semi-shank on the 16th. Sure, he made a birdie on the 72nd hole, but the tournament had long been decided at that point. And while his 2-under 68 (after a 33 on the front nine) belies his Sunday scoring average -- Finau is ranked No. 173 in Round 4 scoring average this season (top 30 in the other three) -- I want to see him throw down late in an event in a "there is no way I'm losing this event" kind of way. Grade: A-
Jordan Spieth (T8): Heard some behind-the-scenes chatter about Spieth possibly winning Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open next month. As much fun as I think that would be, I can't see it happening with the way Spieth is hitting it right now. He's used all the smoke and mirrors the PGA Tour will let him carry in his bag over the last two weeks to finish T3 at the PGA Championship and T8 at Colonial after two pretty mediocre performances from tee to green.
Spieth finished first in the field in both weeks in putting and didn't really sniff either title. This time it tailed off on Sunday as he only made one birdie over his last 29 holes on the weekend becuase, as I've been shouting about for a week now, putting like he is is absolutely unsustainable. After finishing 1st, 29th and 3rd over the first three days, Spieth finished 66th on Sunday, which is the primary reason he shot a 2-over 72. Grade: B
Jim Furyk (T13): I know the FedEx Cup isn't everything, but do you know who's ranked No. 32 in the FedEx Cup with just about a quarter of the season left to go? Furyk! He's ranked higher than Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed. Of course, a place like Colonial -- which is not long -- is the ideal track for him to contend and potentially win, and he struggled to a 73 on Sunday following three rounds in the 60s early in the tournament. But he's still had a really impressive under-the-radar season with just a few months left to go before the playoffs get underway. Grade: A-
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