Kevin Na hoping to re-enact magic of his irons at Waialae

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Kevin Na - TheGolfingHub
Sony Open defending champion Kevin Na believes he has an advantage at the Waialea Country Club because of his solid iron play. Photo: Denverpost.com

Kevin Na is back to defend his title at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Excerpts from an interview:

We’d like to welcome defending champion Kevin Na to the interview room here at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Kevin, just some opening comments on what it’s like to be back here and defending your title.

Kevin Na: It’s great to be back. You know, you want to come to Hawai’i all the time but to be defending, it’s even more special. I know last year we didn’t have the fans. It was nice to win, but without the fans, it’s not the same and it’s nice to have the fans back. I’m looking forward to having a good shot at defending my title.

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Just going back too last season, you had five top 10s including this win, two runner-up, a third-place finish. Just recap last year for us and then any goals you have for the season.

Kevin Na: Yeah, I had a great season last year. When you have a W and make it to THE TOUR Championship, and third in the FedEx, my best finish ever, it was a great year. I played really well in the Playoffs. It was a great year. I played really well in the Playoffs and leading up to the Playoffs, so I was very happy with how I played. Hoping for another good year. No place I’d like to do it than at the beginning of the year and get another W.

 

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Last year you won the title but there were no fans. Take me back to then and just kind of the atmosphere and what it feels like now even with your practice rounds the experience so far?

Kevin Na: Last year we were just happy to be playing golf. Yes, it was a little disappointing that we didn’t have the fans and the local Hawai’i fans but at the same time it was quiet in a nice way a little bit. You were able focus, go through a routine and it was great. But it’s really nice to have the fans back. I know that we get pretty good crowds here normally during the tournament days, and I’m looking forward to seeing the fans back.

Having won here last year, how is the course looking for you this year and how are you feeling going into the opening round?

Kevin Na: The course is in good shape. The rough is a little bit up from the previous years. I know the winds are going to be down a little bit, so I don’t know if both are going to offset it. The greens are rolling great and you have to make a lot of birdies out here. If you’re playing well, low scores are out there.

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How do you feel about where your swing is at and where your game is at? At the end of last year it was so good. How do you feel like where you are at compared to that?

Kevin Na: Last week I felt like I struck the ball really well. My putting is not quite where it needs to be. But you know, more competitive rounds I get in, the sharper my putting is going to get and it’s going to come back.

And you know what, if I can make a few putts this week, and I know the rough is rough this year, so putting the ball in the fairway is going to be a premium. If I can do those two things, I’ll be in good shape.

Marc Leishman was in here earlier talking about the pressure with the scores as low as last week, on the greens, it feels like you can’t miss a shot; it’s that important.

Kevin Na: It’s impressive how low the scores are getting out here, not just for the wins but the cut line, too. So everybody has really elevated their game and everyone is getting better. The technology and the coaching, the information that’s out there and that helps players improve their game is so good.

 

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Why is Waialae such a good fit for you in your game, and what other courses or course do you get excited about and have a chance to win at?

Kevin Na: Waialae is a great golf course. It’s a golf course that anybody can win at. You don’t have to be one style of game. It’s whoever is hitting it the best and putting the best. So it’s a golf course that you don’t have to overpower, and I think because of my good iron play, I have an advantage here and you have to make some putts. There are other golf courses out there, the ones I’ve won, like Colonial is a great example. I think Hilton Head is one of the tournaments I’d like to win to get it off my checklist. And the PLAYERS Championship say golf course that you’ve seen all kinds of winner, all kinds of style of players.

 

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Just talk about your Masters invite and how special that was, and what do you do with those types of memorabilia?

Kevin Na: I want to say this is my 11th Masters appearance this year, it’s got to be. And every year that I get that invite, it’s special. I have a couple — I don’t have every year, but I should have but I have — you know, they still send out the old-fashioned way, they send you that letter, and I have a few of those saved. Now they send you an e-mail and you do it electronically, you register electronically, and it’s got that “I accept” button.

I joked, hey, why isn’t there an “I decline” button. I joked about that; I’m new to Twitter and I just had some fun with it and people really liked it. I don’t think there is anyone in the world that would decline. I’m really looking forward to that Masters, too.

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