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Kevin Na: A Microcosm of the PGA Tour

Winning on the PGA Tour is hard and golf is not like most sports. A successful basketball team expects to win somewhere between 50 and 60 games in a season and a successful football team strives to win 12 or 13. On the PGA Tour, a successful year can be dictated by just one win, or maybe two or three. And at the end of the day, losing is the rule and winning is the exception even for players like Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. And especially for players like Kevin Na

Kevin Na, the reality of the PGA Tour

For players like Kevin Na, who won his second PGA Tour event at the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier on Sunday, his wins are few and far between. Since winning the 2011 Shriner’s Hospital for Children Open, Na has come close on many occasions losing in playoffs in 2014 at the Memorial Tournament and in 2015 at the Open. Close calls in playoffs are accompanied by a total of 34 top 10’s since 2011. It doesn’t matter who you are, being in contention for 34 different PGA Tour events is incredible. It’s something that Na has to be proud of, but something that will be forgotten when people look back on his career.

A Long Road

Instead, Na will be remembered for some of his low points during his 7-year absence from the winner’s circle. Everyone remembers his battle with the yips at the 2012 Players Championship. Patrons at TPC Sawgrass saw him struggle to complete a full swing while yelling at himself to get it together. Like most professional athletes, he has struggled with injuries at different points over his tenure on tour resulting in only three made cuts in 2013. But only when he wins do we take a moment to realize the successful PGA Tour career Na has put together. For example, he finished in the top-3 of four of the first six events of the 2015-2016 season and finished top 10 at Oakmont in 2016. Winning keeps you on tour and to hang around that long without winning is a testament to Na’s consistent performance.

The Jordan Spieth’s and Justin Thomas’s are the exception to how the PGA Tour works. Spieth and Thomas will never seriously worry about losing their PGA Tour card. They will never worry about getting into every major and never worry about not being eligible for any tournament.

But for Na, and many others, winning opens up so many doors. For starters, he is exempt on tour through the 2019-2020 season. He punched his ticket to the 2019 Masters as well as other prestigious tournaments such as the Players and the Memorial Tournament.  Winning is everything, and means so much to those who grind out on tour for years and only get to taste victory every once in a while.

The reality of the PGA Tour is that winning is hard. Harder than maybe any other sport. For Kevin Na and the overwhelming majority of professional golfers, it takes years to reach the winner’s circle, and getting back there more than once is a whole different animal. Na, like many others, overcame years of adversity and disappointment and is a PGA Tour champion once again.


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