By Sam McPherson
What Sunday’s fourth round at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier lacked in drama it certainly made for in pure awe. Almost 20 players thought they had a legitimate chance to win the event when the day started. Then Kevin Na left everyone in the dust. He birdied six of the first 10 holes to open up a big lead, and he never looked back, cruising to a final-round 64, 19-under par for the tournament, which was good enough to win the event by five strokes. It was his first PGA Tour win since 2011 and his second Tour victory overall.
Third-round co-leader Kelly Kraft finished second after posting a round of 70 on Sunday on the the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Americans owned the top four spots, as Jason Kokrak and Brandt Snedeker tied for third place at 13-under. Five players came in at 12-under par, including third-round co-leader Harold Varner III, who could manage just a 72 over the event’s final 18 holes.
For Na, who finished seventh at the 2016 U.S. Open to post his best finish in a major, the win bumped him up 40 spots to 18th in the FedExCup standings. Na has four top-10 finishes this year on the PGA Tour, including a second-place finish at the Genesis Open in February and a fourth-place finish at the Forth Worth Invitational in May. He also finished sixth at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Before Na drained all the excitement from the event with his opening 10 holes on Sunday, the first three rounds had been marked by low scoring and a more crowded leaderboard. Webb Simpson shot a first-round 61 on Thursday to take just a one-stroke lead over Whee Kim, who posted a 62. Right behind them was Joaquin Niemann at 63 and Kraft at 64. Four players shot 65 on Thursday, and many more crowded the leaderboard after posting 66s to start the tournament. Na’s opening 69 had him well back of the leaders.
By the end of Friday’s second round, though, the top of the leaderboard had thinned out a little bit. Kraft posted a 63 to take a one-shot lead at 13-under par over Anirban Lahiri, who matched Simpson’s Thursday effort with a round of 61 himself. Simpson’s second-round 67 on Friday left him two shots off the lead, and Kokrak emerged from the pack after carding 64 to hold down fourth place, three shots behind Kraft. Na had posted 63 on Friday to move much closer to the lead.
After the third round on Saturday, 17 golfers were within five shots of each other atop the leaderboard, setting up an exciting Sunday finish. Varner III posted a 66 to share the lead with Kraft, who carded a mere 69, at 14-under. One stroke behind the leading pair stood Na and Xander Schauffele, who both shot 65 on Saturday. Na made all the positioning over the second and third rounds irrelevant, however, with his fourth-round brilliance.
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Next On The Tee: John Deere Classic
It’s on to the Midwest for the PGA Tour this week, with the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois up next. Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion. The John Deere Classic has been an official Tour stop since 1972. Steve Stricker holds the tourney records for lowest score (258) and lowest score to par (26-under), set back in 2010.
In addition to DeChambeau, who has seven top-10 finishes this year on Tour, former event champions Ryan Moore (2016), Zach Johnson (2012), and Stricker (2009, 2010, 2011) will be playing this year. Besides Stricker, with his three-year dominance, only two other golfers have ever won consecutive events in the tournament’s history. DeChambeau will try to match Deane Beman (1971, 1972) and David Frost (1992, 1993).
The course has hosted this event since 2000, and in a funny little twist, three-time event winner D.A. Weibring designed it. He won the event in 1979, 1991, and 1995, before the tournament moved to the course he designed. The course record is 59, also posted in 2010, albeit by Paul Goydos. The final three holes line up nicely for potential excitement on Sunday, as the 16th is a par 3, the 17th is a par 5, and the 18th is a tough par 4 at 476 yards.
The TPC Deere Run course plays 7,257 yards long and is a par 71.
Favorites: Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Kelly Kraft
Players to Watch: Joaquin Niemann, Patrick Rodgers, Harold Varner III
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.