Na folds under pressure, Kuchar smiles

American Kevin Na hits his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Players...

American Kevin Na hits his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Players Championship yesterday.(GETTY)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 PM ET

In retrospect, Matt Kuchar did himself a favour by dunking the ball into the water on 17 late Saturday afternoon at TPC Sawgrass.

That plunk allowed Kevin Na to sleep on a one-shot overnight lead, the same margin held by Calgary’s Stephen Ames who went on to win by six, but that was six years ago and Ames needed a memorable 67 while the rest of the field wilted to secure his championship.

Such was not the case yesterday. As was pointed out here yesterday, Na was either due to step up or blow up with his twitchy, indecisive style, unsure of when to take his shot.

Blow up he did, with six bogeys against only two birdies to shoot a 76 and drop into a tie for seventh, even if he seemed on cruise control early in his round, when few of the top guys from Saturday seemed interested in the lead.

Putting the pressure on Na seemed to work for Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Martin Laird, who held the lead at various times this week. All were in the hunt again on Sunday.

There were some impressive numbers out there. David Toms, who lost in a playoff last year, had a 65. Luke Donald came from way off the lead to post a 66 and Laird, who tied for second, had a 67 after an even par 72 the day before.

As a matter of fact, Donald had to hang around a long time because it looked like his nine-under score could be the winner, or at least put him into a playoff.

It was starting to look like a battle of attrition, but you would never know if from the demeanor of Kuchar who, in direct contrast to Na, smiled all the way through and, at times, seemed to be whistling.

Kuchar’s two-under 70 wasn’t spectacular, but his timing was impeccable with his birdie on 16 a bit of a safety net should he repeat with a dunk on the next hole, while also snuffing what appeared to be an uprising from Rickie Fowler, who picked up his second straight bird at 17.

Kuchar stayed dry when it was his turn, but bogeyed 17 and parred 18 for a two-shot winning margin over Laird, Johnson, Fowler and Ben Curtis.

Now that it’s over, it’s safe to be on top.

TIGER TALES

Tiger Woods made the turn at four over, but reeled off three birdies on the back to finish with a final round 73 and tie for 40th. Of the five final rounds he’s completed this year, Woods has only been under 70 once, that coming at the Honda Classic, where he recorded a magnificent 62. While he talks about the “process,” Woods’ scoring average at events in which he played all four rounds, has gone from under 70 to over that number in the past two events. Woods averaged 73.25 at the Masters and 71.75 at the Players. Tiger’s assessment? “I felt I did it well in spurts again, just need to be a little bit more consistent and, as I said earlier in the week, just got to play the par fives better than I did. That’s something I didn’t do.” Woods had seven birdies on the 16 par fives over the four rounds ... Phil Mickelson looked like he might be a factor when he got off to a strong start with birdies on two and four, but finished at one over for the day. What’s all this nonsense about him being too young to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as he was last week? To the closed-minded, it’s apparently a message that your career’s almost over. How about an early induction being the exclamation point on an outstanding career instead? The same argument came up when Mike Weir was put into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame a few years ago ... The thing about movie reviews is that I’d rather see the flick myself instead of listening to some blowhard tell me whether I’ll like it or not. The same goes for golf. There comes a time when the players have to step up to illustrate the magic and mystery of the Players Championship and TPC Sawgrass that NBC went overboard on again with its shlock off the top of the broadcast. Guess what folks? We don’t need to be sold if we’ve already tuned in.

OUTSIDE SAWGRASS

With all of the talk about future sites for the RBC Canadian Open, here’s one to consider: Mississauga Golf and Country Club, which has hosted the Open six times, the last coming in 1974. Hamilton Golf and Country Club, the site of this year’s Open, Shaughnessy and St. George’s, the sites of the two previous Opens, all waited a long time before getting the national championship back and were made to work by today’s standards. Just keep that one on the bench for now. You never know when it will get into the game ... Alena Sharp, Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis and Stacey Lewis have confirmed they’ll play at the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at Grey Silo in Waterloo next month ... Ames, Matt McQuillan, Mike Weir and Graham DeLaet are the Canadians in the field for this week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Tx.


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