Late birdie gives Na one-stroke edge
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kevin Na stood over his ball after taking a drop in the rough beside the ninth green following two wayward shots, on his final hole of the day and with a share of the lead in the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial.
As Na looked toward the hole more than 90 feet away, he saw the huge ridge going through the middle of the green. He then noticed the caddie of one of his playing partners move a bag from behind the green.
“Because I can chip it over the right down the other side,” Na said.
Instead, Na chipped in for an incredible birdie to wrap up an 8-under 62. That gave him a one-stroke lead over Charley Hoffman, who also had a bogey-free round Thursday. Jhonattan Vegas, Emiliano Grillo, Andrew Putnam and Beau Hossler all shot 64.
Na’s tee shot at the 399-yard ninth hole went into the rough to the right, then his approach flew over the green and settled against a temporary grandstand. His relief was a drop into more rough, but after the chip landed on the green, the ball started to curl toward the cup.
“It got over the ridge and I was like, ‘This is going to be good. It’s going to be close.’ Then it catches the right lip,” Na said, describing it as a perfect chip.
This is the sixth time Na has had a first-round lead, his third at Colonial.
“This is a great golf course for me. Every year I come here I have high, high expectations,” he said, before emphasizing a note that had been relayed by a PGA Tour media official. “Did you hear what he said? I’ve had the lead a few times. He never said I won, did he?”
Na’s best finish at Hogan’s Alley was a tie for seventh in 2007, and his only PGA Tour victory came seven years ago in Las Vegas.
After starting the day with six consecutive pars, Na went 6 under on a five-hole stretch that he called one of the best in his career. There were birdies at Nos. 16-18 before his approach at the 558-yard first hole rolled to 3 feet to set up an eagle putt. He made a nearly 50-footer at the second.
Sixty of the 121 players were under par, and another 16 shot 70. Jordan Spieth, the No. 3 player in the world, was at 1-under 69 and defending Colonial champion Kevin Kisner shot 72.
n Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.
“Make it another even $20,” Stockton said.
The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies — $5 each — and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.
Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn, Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.
Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?
“Absolutely,” said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. “He’ll tell you I’m a little bit of a hustler there.”
Olson will have to keep making birdies — and petty cash — to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.
Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.
n Nevada club professional Stuart Smith admitted sleeping on the lead of the biggest tournament available to him might be a problem.
Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.
n Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.
Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.
The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.
McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).