Jamm Aquino

Na birdies final hole for one-shot win at US PGA Tour Sony Open

He finished one stroke in front of Chris Kirk

SOUTH KOREAN-BORN American Kevin Na birdied the 72nd hole to claim a one-shot victory last night in the US PGA Tour Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Na followed up a career-low 61 in the third round with a five-under par 65 for a 21-under par total of 259.

He finished one stroke in front of Chris Kirk, who was first in the clubhouse on 260 after a final-round 65, and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, who capped his 66 with back-to-back birdies.

“All these experiences — playing 18 years on tour — it’s paying off right now,” said the 37-year-old Na, who turned pro in 2001 and joined the US PGA Tour in 2004 but didn’t win his first US Tour title until 2011.

It would be another seven years until he claimed a second, but he’s now taken his tally to five.

“I felt pretty confident all day,” said Na, who began the round two strokes behind overnight leader Brendan Steele.

Birdies at the second and ninth kept him in the hunt, but after he let a seven-foot birdie chance go begging at 11 he fell back with a three-putt bogey at the 12th.

Na responded with three birdies in a row at 13, 14 and 15.

“I played a pretty good front nine,” he said. “Made a little mistake missing the putt on 11 and 12 I misjudged that down grain and three-putted.

“But I knew there were a lot of birdie holes left and just played my game, hit a lot of solid shots.

“I was having fun out there.”

He was just right of the fairway off the tee at 18, where his second shot tracked the flag but rolled off the back of the green. His chip on left him less than two feet for birdie and the win.

Kirk shook off two early bogeys to climb the leaderboard with seven birdies in his 65.

Niemann, who began the day tied for second with Na, carded a 66 to join Kirk on 260.

“I’m just happy the way I played the last two holes,” said Niemann, who chipped in for birdie from just off the green at 17 and birdied the par-five finishing hole despite finding both a fairway and a greenside bunker.

“Just another good week, so happy with that,” added the Chilean, who was coming off a playoff loss in the Tournament of Champions last week.

Steele didn’t find his first birdie until the seventh, but he had consolidated his lead with a 21-foot eagle putt at the ninth.

Bogeys at 10 and 14, however, proved too much to overcome. His one-under par  69 left him sharing fourth on 261 with Webb Simpson (64) and Australian Marc Leishman (65).

“Obviously super disappointed,” Steele said. “Playing really well, feeling really good about it. Thought I hit a perfect shot on 10. Got a weird lie there, totally changed the momentum.

“Every single shot I hit after that ended up with a weird lie, one foot through the fairway, really struggling after that. Completely changed the momentum and super bummed.”

© – AFP, 2021

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