It was the win that almost didn’t even get off the ground.
Kevin Na was nearly forced to withdraw from the Sony Open in Hawaii for the third straight year when he felt pain in his ribs on Wednesday. He’d missed the previous two iterations with neck and finger injuries after arriving on site.
This time – with the help of his traveling trainer – the 37-year-old battled on, and by Sunday afternoon he was tapping home a final-hole birdie to claim his fifth PGA TOUR win.
Anirban Lahiri conceded the gains from three solid rounds with a disappointing 74 in the final round. After rising up the ranks with a 65 and 64 in the middle rounds, the Indian was in prime position for yet another top ten on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, though, he mustered just two birdies on Sunday, sliding 45 spots to T62 with an 8-under 272.
It’s been an incredible run for the Korean-American who has now won in the last four TOUR seasons, joining Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau as the only players to have a similar active streak going. He has surged to 10th in the FedExCup standings and jumped to 23rd in the world rankings. This was Na’s fourth win in 55 starts after he managed just one win in his first 369 starts.
It really wasn’t that easy. After a bogey on the 12th hole, Na was three shots back of Brendan Steele’s lead. It appeared as if he’d let his chance slip. But perhaps mindful that Steele had let a similar lead go at Waialae Country Club a year ago, he failed to give in.
There was an immediate response as he rattled off three birdies in a row to surge back into the mix and came to the par-5 18th hole knowing a birdie would secure either a win or perhaps a spot in a playoff at worst.
He smashed a 5-wood out of the rough that skirted past the pin and ran through the green, but made no mistake with his pitch back, ensuring his well-earned victory after last-ditch eagle attempts from Steele and Joaquin Niemann failed to fall.
“I was playing maybe a little bit more aggressive coming down the stretch, not worrying so much about second or third. Every year, I hope to win, and I expect to win, on the right golf courses,” Na added. “Sometimes that adds a little bit more pressure but it’s just a mind-set that when you go in, hey, look, if things go well and I play well, I’m going to have a chance.
Niemann was runner-up for the second week running in Hawaii – the 22-year-old Chilean lost in a playoff at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and fell one short in Honolulu. The only comfort left for the guy who was 41 under par through the last eight rounds was a move to third in the FedExCup and a boost to 25th in the world rankings.
Chris Kirk also fell a shot short while Steele was left to swallow the bitter pill of defeat for the second year running despite holding a healthy late lead. He joined Marc Leishman and Webb Simpson two shots off the pace. Leishman’s T4 represented his first top 10 finish since the TOUR went on COVID 19 hiatus last March and comes just two weeks before his title defense at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Lahiri will play in the American Express this week. The Indian is projected to start the week in 72nd on the FedexCup standings.
PGA Tour Release, Jan 18, 2021