By Tom LaMarre
Kevin Na has won four times on the PGA Tour, hitting the jackpot twice in Las Vegas.
The 37-year-old Na, who was born in South Korea and attended Diamond Bar High in Southern California, will defend his title this week in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Vegas.
Na (pictured) likes the place they call Sin City so much that he now lives there.
“It’s a place where I got my first win,” Na, who also won at TPC Summerlin in 2011, said after beating Patrick Cantlay with a par on the second playoff hole last year. “Hometown, local support. What more can you ask for? My family was here. My father got to see me win for the first time in his life. Very special day.
“ … (I know) where not to hit it, where it hit it, all that. I know this golf course very well. I used to live around this area before I moved (across town) to Southern Highlands. But, you know, I think it was, I really felt like I was the favorite. The local support, local crowds cheering for me really helped me, especially when things weren’t going well.
“This is a great golf course for me. People here have been very supportive. Vegas Strong. You know, TPC, I used to come out here and practice. The people are just nothing but great to me.”
Of course it’s also been a great golf course for Cantlay, from Los Alamitos and UCLA.
Cantlay claimed his first PGA Tour victory in the 2017 Shriners with a par on the second extra hole to turn back Alex Cjeka of Germany and Kim Meen-whee of South Korea, and has finished second at TPC Summerlin the last two years.
“Driving the ball in the fairway is really important (at TPC Summerlin),” said Cantlay, who has broken 70 in 10 of his 12 rounds on the course. “It’s one of my strengths, so most of the tee shots out here look really comfortable to me. Leaves me lots of wedges, lots of opportunities for scoring.
“I think that’s a big part of playing this golf course well, is hitting driver a lot. I hit driver a lot out here when other guys might lay-up. It’s worked. I like this place. I’ve had a good track record here and feel comfortable.”
And there’s sixth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, coming off his victory in the U.S. Open, who beat Cantlay by one stroke in the 2018 Shriners, and closed with a 63 last year to tie for fourth, in addition to finishing in a tie for seventh in 2017.
“(TPC Summerlin) played ridiculously easy (last year) because there was no wind,” said DeChambeau, who has won seven times on the PGA Tour. “The golf course is difficult. You have to hit shots. Shots on 3, 2, 18, 17. You got a bunch of holes that are difficult—12.
“I love it. The atmosphere is great. I always play well in dry, non-humid conditions. Seems to work better for me for some reason, and my body always feels pretty good coming here. Comfortable with the golf course. Love the shots off the tee. Then I love the scoring opportunities out here on the par-5s. If I take care of those, do what I can there, I’m usually doing pretty good here.”
Other top players in the field this week are seventh-ranked Webb Simpson, who captured the 2013 Shriners; fifth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who is the PGA champion; Sergio Garcia of Spain, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship last week; 2009 Shriners champion Martin Laird of Scotland; former UNLV star and Las Vegas resident Charley Hoffman, Jason Day of Australia, Zach Johnson, Francesco Molinari of Italy, Jimmy Walker, Keegan Bradley, Paul Casey of England, Stewart Cink and Si Woo Kim of South Korea.
They’re all hoping their number comes up in Vegas.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Playing for the first time since he claimed his first major title in the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot, DeChambeau is returning to a course where he claimed another one of his seven PGA Tour titles. He won the 2018 Shriners and tied for fourth in his title defense, after tying for seventh three years ago.
- Webb Simpson, United States – The 2012 U.S. Open champion captured one of his seven PGA Tour victories by six strokes in the 2014 Shriners after starting with scores of 64-63. He also tied for fourth at TPC Summerlin in 2010 and 2014, in addition to tying for seventh last season. Simpson tied for eighth in his last start at the U.S. Open.
- Kevin Na, United States – Two of Na’s four PGA Tour titles have come in the Shriners, including last year in a playoff. His first victory on the circuit came at TPC Summerlin in 2011 by two strokes over Nick Watney, and he also tied for second in 2016. Shot 75-77—152 to miss the cut in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in his last start.
- Sergio Garcia, Spain – Claimed his 11th PGA Tour victory, but first since the 2017 Masters, when he made a birdie on No. 18 to win the Sanderson Farms by one stroke on Sunday. Garcia had fallen out of the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings, but rose 13 spots to No. 38 with his 36th pro victory. Missed the cut in his only Shriners start in 2003.
- Patrick Cantlay, United States – Captured the first of his two PGA Tour victories in a playoff at the 2017 Shriners, and has finished second each of the last two years, losing to Kevin Na in a playoff last season. Cantlay has broken 70 on 10 of his 12 rounds at TPC Summerlin, including two 63s. Coming off a tie for 43rd in U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
- Paul Casey, England – Winner of 19 tournaments around the world, including three on the PGA Tour, Casey is making his debut at TPC Summerlin after he tied for 17th last month in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Also tied for second in the PGA Championship two months ago at TPC Harding Park, where he posted four rounds of 68 or better.
- Cameron Davis, Australia – Winner of the 2017 Australia Open took a two-stroke lead to the final round in the Sanderson Farms Championship on Sunday in search of his first PGA Tour victory, but closed with a 72 to tie for sixth. Davis tied for 28th in his debut as the Shriners last season by finishing with three consecutive rounds in the 60s.
- Martin Laird, Scotland – Claimed the first of his three PGA Tour victories in 2009 Shriners, opening with a 63 and winning with a par on third playoff hole. Tied for second in his title defense, shooting 62-63 in middle rounds. Tied for 28th in Sanderson Farms after not playing on PGA Tour since a tie for sixth in Puerto Rico Open in February.
- Collin Morikawa, United States – The PGA champ, who has won three times on PGA Tour in the last three years, is trying to bounce back from a missed cut in the U.S. Open. Morikawa was sixth in Tour Championship last month. Was in position for top-10 finish in 2019 the Shriners with three rounds in the 60s, but closed with a 72 and tied for 42nd.
- Charley Hoffman, United States – A graduate of UNLV who now lives in Las Vegas, Hoffman was in the chase most of the way before tying for sixth in the Sanderson Farms after tying for 14th the week before in Puntacana. Has three top-10 finishes in 14 appearances in the Shriners, the best solo fourth in 2014, when he closed with a 64.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jason Day, Australia; Keegan Bradley, United States; Jimmy Walker, United States; Si Woo Kim, South Korea; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Tony Finau, United States; Corey Conners, Canada; Zach Johnson, United States; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Stewart Cink, United States; Rory Sabbatini, Slovakia.
- J.T. Poston, United States – Was near the lead all the way before tying for third in the Sanderson Farms after missing the cut in U.S. Open. Finished T-4 in the 2017 Shriners.
- Kristoffer Ventura, Denmark – Finished T-6 in the Sanderson Farms after he was T-7 in the Safeway Open. Posted a T-18 last year in Shriners with four rounds in the 60s.
- Denny McCarthy, United States – Winner of 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Championship was T-6 in Sanderson Farms and T-9 at Wyndham in August. Also T-9 in 2019 Shriners
- Henrik Norlander, Norway – Two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner finished T-4 in the Sanderson Farms Championship and also finished T-6 in Memorial Tournament in July.
- Aaron Wise, United States – After three rounds in 60s, faded to T-17 with closing 72 in the Sanderson Farms last week. Finished T-10 in the 2016 Shriners and T-15 in 2018.