Kevin Na walking tall again, in hunt in Sony Open in Hawaii

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Steve DiMeglio
·4 min read
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Kevin Na was walking in putts again.

A lot of them.

Na made an eagle and four birdies in a five-hole stretch in Saturday’s third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii and closed with one last birdie on the 18th to rush up the leaderboard on another windless, sun-splashed day in the Aloha State.

When Na was done walking in putts – which is becoming his popular signature move – he put his name to a scorecard that was bogey-free and added up to an 9-under-par 61 at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

Starting the day five shots out of the lead, Na moved to 16 under with the best score this week. Na is two shots behind leader Brendan Steele, who matched Na’s 61 later in the round.

“I played fantastic. My ball-striking was great and the fact that I had an outside look at a magic number, 59, was exciting. It was fun,” said Na, who is aiming for his fifth PGA Tour title. “I hit it really good and gave myself a lot of looks, and I made my share of putts. It’s not like it was an extremely hot crazy putting round. If I can keep this up, keep this ball-striking up, I’ll have a good look tomorrow.”

Sony Open in Hawaii: Photo gallery | Leaderboard

And Na knows he has to do just that in the final round.

“The golf course is so gettable that somebody can go shoot 8- or 9-under,” he said. “I am in a good position but it’s what you shoot Sunday. I’m still going to need a low one tomorrow.”

Na was playing with Keith Mitchell, who has become somewhat of a large good luck charm for two playing partners this week. Mitchell was playing with Nick Taylor in the second round and each shot 62. Mitchell was in Na’s group and nearly matched Na’s score.

Mitchell is looking for his second PGA Tour title but has struggled since winning his maiden victory in the 2019 Honda Classic. In 44 starts since then, he has just three top-10s and 18 missed cuts. His best finish this year has been a tie for 45th in the RSM Classic.

Sony Open In Hawaii
Sony Open In Hawaii

Keith Mitchell plays his shot from the 14th tee during the third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at the Waialae Country Club on January 16, 2021 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It looked to be another one of those weeks for Mitchell after he opened with a 71. But he then birdied 16 of his next 32 holes and followed up his second-round 62 with a 63 to get to 14 under.

“Definitely turned it around,” Mitchell said. “It’s been fun to see some good scores go out there. I think one point I was 3-over in the first round, so to be where I’m sitting right now, it’s pretty cool.”

Mitchell credited his putting for the turnaround.

“I changed probably everything about my putting,” he said. “I putted horrible. I’m just trying to get over my putts and take one look and hit it. I was trying too hard, trying to be perfect. I love bermuda greens, so just going back to my old feels and trusting them.

“I literally try to do nothing over a putt, take care of zero and do nothing and fortunately it’s been working a lot better than trying as hard as I can.”

And playing with Taylor and Na hasn’t hurt things.

“It’s real easy to get some mojo when your group is playing well,” Mitchell said. “Felt like a battle between the two of us each day. When you have it in a group you take it for granted but it really helped a lot. It’s great because when there’s good, positive energy, you just feed off of it. It’s rare to have that.”

Na agreed.

“It’s nice when you and your playing partners are making a lot of birdies, you’re seeing a lot of good putts and a lot of good shots,” he said. “We were egging each other on, giving each other fist-pumps. We had a good time.”

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