Na heckled all day at Players, slides down leaderboard in final round

Kevin Na at The Players Championship
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Kevin Na plans to address his pre-shot problems in the future, but says his issues aren't likely to disappear anytime soon.
By
Mark Long
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012 | 9:38 p.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Kevin Na was booed, taunted and heckled on nearly every hole.

The 28-year-old South Korean native even had one spectator tell him he "better not choke" because he had money riding on him.

Na dealt with it best he could, and even though he felt rushed at times, he never chastised fans at The Players Championship for his Sunday slide in the final round.

He blamed himself, just as he has all week for his countless waggles and his painfully slow pace.

Na closed with a 4-over 76, falling from first to a three-way tie for seventh and becoming the latest 54-hole leader to falter at the treacherous TPC Sawgrass. The third-round leader hasn't won The Players since it moved from March to May in 2007.

"I deserve it," said Na, who finished at 8-under 280 -- five strokes behind winner Matt Kuchar. "I mean, I'm being honest. But is it fair? No. You put an average guy in between those ropes, trust me, they won't pull it back."

Na faded early, too.

He bogeyed four of final five holes on the front and wasn't much better on the back.

When it was clear he was out of contention, Na hurried between shots in hopes of trying not to slow down playing partner Kuchar.

Some fans showed considerably less respect.

"It is what it is," Na said. "I do need to work on what I need to. I do need to work on my pre-shot routine. I do need to play faster. But the average golfer has no clue how much pressure we're playing under and how tough it is and how much of a fight it is mentally. I honestly think with all that going on, I did pretty well fighting. I had a good fight. I hung in there, so you know what, I just take the positives from it."

Na took hundreds of waggles as he set up over the ball, backed off the shot if he didn't feel comfortable and a couple of times purposely missed so he could start over.

Long known as one of the slowest players on tour, Na attributes his bizarre routine to a swing change. Nonetheless, fans showed little compassion.

Things got really ugly on the par-4 sixth.

"We had a clown on the sixth hole come up and say, after we just made bogey on five, he said, `I've got $2,000; you better not start choking,'" said Na's caddie, Kevin Harms. "This is a game of etiquette. It's not basketball. It's not football. Show come class. There's no reason to do that to anybody.

"It's not like he's doing it on purpose. He feels more bad about it than anyone else, I can promise you that. He's doing everything he can to get faster."

On the par-5 ninth, Na even backed off his tee after hearing some boos. After he pulled his tee shot in the water on the par-3 13th, some fans started singing, "Nah, nah, nah, nah. Nah, nah, nah, nah. Hey, hey, hey, goodbye."

"You know, when I'm over the ball, it would be nice if it was quiet," Na said. "But just guys, you can hear them talking, like, `Pull the trigger, pull the trigger, hit it,' which makes me back off even more. So that part was a bit tough."

Kuchar said he didn't notice the taunts.

"I did not hear as much as heckling," Kuchar said. "We talked a little bit about the Na last name and how many different versions he must here of `nah, nah, nah, nah' or just different plays on his last name. So he said he's pretty much heard everything, had a few giggles at some."

Regardless, Na plans to address his pre-shot problems in the future. But it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

"I'm going to try to take out the whole waggle, no waggle," he said. "I'm going to try to do a little up and down behind the ball, but it's going to take time, practice and tournaments, and I'm going to try to take out the whole waggle. Honestly, it's going to be a battle."


Comments

lockmanjl

Hecklers at a golf tournament are a disgrace to the game and should be either fined or blackballed from tournaments. I watch every golf game both US and European, but I had to turn it off when I heard the heckling. So sponsors take heed, it may impact your pocketbooks.

reekavok

I cannot fathom the low-class gallery at Ponte Vedra having such little respect for the players and the game of golf. Watching on TV, I saw and heard so many instances of disrespect, noisy, unruly fans - it seemed at times they were playing in a trailer park.

But heckling Kevin Na has to be a new low. The guy is struggling, and these bullies come out and stand around and make it even harder for him. What's that all about? Is this what the PGA stands for?

The Players now goes on my calendar as the NO CLASS match to avoid next year.