FORT WORTH, Texas – Kevin Na stood over his ball after taking a drop in the rough beside the ninth green following two wayward shots, on his final hole of the day and with a share of the lead in the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial.
As Na looked toward the hole more than 90 feet away, he saw the huge ridge going through the middle of the green. He then noticed the caddie of one of his playing partners move a bag from behind the green.
“Because I can chip it over the right down the other side,” Na said.
Instead, Na chipped in for an incredible birdie to wrap up an 8-under 62. That gave him a one-stroke lead over Charley Hoffman, who also had a bogey-free round Thursday. Jhonattan Vegas, Emiliano Grillo, Andrew Putnam and Beau Hossler all shot 64.
Na’s tee shot at the 399-yard ninth hole went into the rough to the right, then his approach flew over the green and settled against a temporary grandstand. His relief was a drop into more rough, but after the chip landed on the green, the ball started to curl toward the cup.
“It got over the ridge and I was like, `This is going to be good. It’s going to be close.’ Then it catches the right lip,” Na said, describing it as a perfect chip.
This is the sixth time Na has had a first-round lead, his third at Colonial.
“This is a great golf course for me. Every year I come here I have high, high expectations,” he said, before emphasizing a note that had been relayed by a PGA Tour media official. “Did you hear what he said? I’ve had the lead a few times. He never said I won, did he?”
Na’s best finish at Hogan’s Alley was a tie for seventh in 2007, and his only PGA Tour victory came seven years ago in Las Vegas.
After starting the day with six consecutive pars, Na went 6 under on a five-hole stretch that he called one of the best in his career. There were birdies at Nos. 16-18 before his approach at the 558-yard first hole rolled to 3 feet to set up an eagle putt. He made a nearly 50-footer at the second.
Asked about the unsponsored logo on his visor, which he bought for $22 at The Players Championship after the 30 percent discount for PGA Tour players, he said it was a goat.
“I found out what GOAT meant I think early this year,” he said. “I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, `Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That’s just mean.’ Then I realized it meant greatest of all-time.”
Na hopes to get Jack Nicklaus’ signature on that visor next week.
Sixty of the 121 players were under par, and another 16 shot 70. Jordan Spieth, the No. 3 player in the world, was at 1-under 69 and defending Colonial champion Kevin Kisner shot 72.
Hoffman had birdies on four of his first seven holes, then three of his last four.
“Not much wind … and the greens were receptive,” Hoffman said. “Really didn’t have an opportunity to make bogey besides one missed green on 17 which I knocked up to about 4 feet and made that. It was nice, very stress-free round.”
Vegas certainly felt much better after the first round at Colonial this year. He birdied four consecutive holes on his second nine after his only birdies in first nine were the par 3s, Nos. 13 and 16.
He had an opening 82 at Hogan’s Alley when not feeling well last May, the highest score in his 576 career rounds on the PGA Tour. That came after shooting 76 in the first round two years ago at the course that he always looks forward to playing.
“You’ve got to think your way around this place a little bit better. I would say in the past obviously trying to be a little too aggressive and putting myself in tough situations around this place, you can really make yourself a long day here,” Vegas said. “Today, just kind of took it simple.”
Vegas’ late birdie streak started with an 8-footer at the par-3 No. 4, the middle of a trio of holes known as the Horrible Horseshoe because of their layout and difficulty. He had an 11-foot par at the 476-yard dogleg left third, before the birdies at the long par 3 and the 467-yard 5th hole parallel to the Trinity River.
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