PGA Tour

Unlikely closing chip-in lifts Na to Fort Worth lead

2018-05-25 06:52
Kevin Na (Getty)

Los Angeles - Kevin Na chipped in for birdie from 90 feet to cap an eight-under-par 62 on Thursday and seize a one-shot lead in the PGA Tour Fort Worth Invitational.

Na, 34, was in the rough off the tee at Colonial Country Club's ninth hole - his last of the day - and his approach nestled against a grandstand.

His relief drop left him in the rough and after a spirited discussion with his caddie over club selection he launched a chip that rolled over a ridge and went in.

"I told you," Na said after the ball dropped to give him a one-stroke lead over fellow American Charley Hoffman.

"I just hit a perfect chip," Na added. "I saw it go 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 and goes in. I was like, 'oh, my God.'"

Hoffman reaped the benefits of his decision to change putters, firing a seven-under 63 to set the early pace.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman said. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

He put himself in position to make good use of the club, hitting 16 greens in regulation and never facing a putt of more than five feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

Na, seeking a second PGA Tour title to go with the Shriners Open crown he won in 2011, chased down Hoffman with a bogey-free round, catching fire mid-round with a five-hole stretch played in six-under thanks to birdies at 16, 17 and 18, an eagle at the par-five first and another birdie at the second.

"Six-under through five holes? I like those kind of stretches," Na said.

"I was hitting it really great, just making some routine pars," Na said. "I had a couple chances, some misses, and then I hit it really close on 16. I would say four, five feet. Made that. Felt pretty good."

He joined Hoffman at seven-under with a birdie at the sixth before seizing the lead at the last.

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and Americans Andrew Putnam and Beau Hossler shared third on 64, one stroke in front of US veteran Steve Stricker.

A big group on 66 included England's Justin Rose and Japan's Satoshi Kodaira, who produced an albatross at the first when his three-iron second shot from 234 yards out in the fairway found the hole.

It was just the second double-eagle in the history of the tournament and the second on the PGA Tour this season.

Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the US PGA Tour Fort Worth Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas (USA unless noted, par-70):

62 - Kevin Na

63 - Charley Hoffman

64 - Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), Andrew Putnam, Beau Hossler

65 - Steve Stricker

66 - Ben Martin, Kevin Tway, Shawn Stefani, Alex Cejka (GER), Tim Herron, Rory Sabbatini (RSA), Ben Crane, Justin Rose (ENG), Satoshi Kodaira (JPN), Chris Kirk, Ben Silverman (CAN)

67 - Derek Fathauer, Martin Piller, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Vaughn Taylor, Bill Haas, Rickie Fowler, Anirban Lahiri (IND), Tyrone Van Aswegen (RSA), Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Tom Lovelady

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