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January 11, 2008
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Kevin Na to the interview room at the Sony Open in Hawai'i. Congratulations on a fantastic second round, 64 today. If we could just get some general comments from you and then we'll throw it out for a couple of questions.
KEVIN NA: Yeah. Before I teed off I came out early and was working on my putting and I was checking out what the leaders were shooting, and K.J. was taking it pretty low again. I saw he finished at 11, and I said, you know what, I'm going to try and get in the final group this week. I'm going to try to play aggressive and play hard.
I got off the 10th hole, and I'm like, "I like the driver." I pull hooked it into the trees, and I said, "oh, boy." I actually got up-and-down from like 70 yards. The next one I hit in the bunker and got up-and-down. First two holes were a shaky start. Then I got back on track and started playing real well again.
Q. Up-and-down for birdie on 10?
KEVIN NA: No, par.
Q. You hooked it left in the trees?
KEVIN NA: Chipped out.
Q. And got up-and-down?
KEVIN NA: Yeah, from 70 yards.
And then I did it yesterday, too, on the first hole. I hit it in the left rough, laid up, had 100 yards, hit it on, 35-footer, couldn't see a thing, just hit it and it went in. It was like, all right. I told Don, my caddie, tomorrow we're having a better start, just fairway and green.
DOUG MILNE: Out there you were asked about the LASIK surgery you had last month and how you almost feel like it had a negative effect. Talk a little bit about the eyes.
KEVIN NA: My eyes were so bad. I used to wear contacts and I'd wake up in the morning and I couldn't see the alarm clock. I'd have to put it literally right in front of my face for me to see it. They said it's like -8.5, astigmatism, it's like -10. I don't know what it means, but it means you're almost blind.
I got it done from like the world's greatest doctor. He told me, "It might take more than one surgery because your eyes are so bad, but we can probably get 20/20." And I had it done, and the first week it was awesome. I was able to see very well. It wasn't like perfect, but it was very good. I was excited. Just slowly it got worse and worse.
Right now it's not very good. I can't see balls land. On a sunny day like today it was nice, but overcast or late in the afternoon or early in the morning, I have trouble seeing.
I know, I just set up and I have Donatello line me up, and he said, "It looks good," and I just pull the trigger.
Q. Do you see the ball at your feet?
KEVIN NA: Yeah, as long as I can see the ball down, I think I'm all right.
Q. How does it affect your putting?
KEVIN NA: The long putts it's kind of difficult. I have to really feel it. You know, I kind it pace it off almost. But the short putts it's not a problem. I'm putting pretty well. It's not too bad, but it's just uncomfortable.
Q. Not that I'm lazy, I just didn't get a chance to look this up before coming in here, but your age now is about 24?
KEVIN NA: 24, fifth year on TOUR.
Q. Grizzled veteran.
KEVIN NA: I'm getting old.
Q. You look a lot more comfortable, though.
KEVIN NA: Thank you.
Q. Do you feel that way?
KEVIN NA: Yes, I do, a lot more comfortable. I mean, my first year -- first year out here is always crazy; second year I felt decent; third year I was hurt; and last year because I was coming from an injury and had limited tournaments, I felt like I was cramming for a final or something. It wasn't a very good feeling.
And it seems like -- I didn't play awful, but it seems like on Sundays -- I had three Top 10s where I played well on Sunday, but the a lot of times I felt like I had a poor Sunday round and just didn't go that well. But I was really excited to come this year to Sony and start a new year.
Q. What was your injury?
KEVIN NA: I broke my hand, right hand.
Q. What was the ruling you got when you broke it? Just kidding. What did you do?
KEVIN NA: I slammed it in a car door.
Q. You just got your hand stuck?
KEVIN NA: Yeah, it was almost in the wrist. It was right below the wrist. If I would have broke the wrist I would have probably been out for a very long time.
Q. I'm trying to picture how you got your hand in the door.
KEVIN NA: I was kind of trying to catch it probably, real smart.
Q. When was that?
KEVIN NA: This was two years ago in January.
Q. Early in the season?
KEVIN NA: Uh-huh.
Q. Was it a struggle at all to play through your medical and get your number?
KEVIN NA: My hand or just --
Q. You were out in --
KEVIN NA: '06, most of the year.
Q. So '07 you had a medical?
KEVIN NA: Yes, and I had 21 tournaments, and I think I got it done in 10, which was pretty good.
Q. Just wondering, what you were saying about how you felt like you were cramming all last year, did you get over that when you got your card or in the off-season? When did you start feeling comfortable?
KEVIN NA: What do you mean?
Q. You said last year was kind of like it was just stressful all the time.
KEVIN NA: I don't want to say stressful. I still had fun. I enjoyed being out here. I don't know, it was kind of a weird feeling that you get a letter and it says you've got 21 tournaments to make X amount of money to make your card. It's kind of a weird feeling. Instead of just going out there and playing, you start thinking numbers; okay, after this week I've got X amount. So it was kind of weird. But I did well, played hard and fought through it.
Q. You have not gone back to Q-school since the first one, have you?
KEVIN NA: No.
Q. Do you take any pride in that, given the way you started, coming out of high school?
KEVIN NA: A little bit. I've been fortunate. I'm always a hard worker, so I think hard work is paying off.
Q. What are your thoughts -- since you started so early, what are your thoughts on Tadd out here?
KEVIN NA: He's a great kid, great player. Just needs to play a lot of tournaments, lot of golf tournaments. Whether that's Nationwide, PGA TOUR, any tournament he can play anywhere -- if I was him, he's popular, so he can get a lot of sponsor exemptions overseas. I think that's a great place to go, overseas, because you get to see the different parts of the world as a young person, and I think that really opens up your mind. I did it, and I think it was the greatest thing I ever did, just traveling. I just think he needs to play a lot of golf tournaments and he's going to be a great player.
Q. Recap your history. You were a senior in high school when you turned pro?
KEVIN NA: Uh-huh, senior, 17, just before I turned 18.
Q. Actually starting your senior year?
KEVIN NA: I didn't go to my senior year in high school.
Q. Did you finish early?
KEVIN NA: No, I quit school. I got a GED.
Q. And then went to Asia?
KEVIN NA: I tried U.S. Q-school, missed, and then went to Asian Tour, got my card. I actually started out with a conditional card. My first event I finished second. And then I won our last tournament which was our Tour Championship, and that opened a lot of doors for me.
Mostly I played in Europe. That was when I was 18. Mostly the European Tour when I was 19. I actually made enough to keep my card on the European Tour on sponsor's exemptions, but on the European Tour you have to pay an affiliated member fee before you tee it up, which was kind of weird. I didn't get my card.
Q. And then U.S. Q-school?
KEVIN NA: Then I got through.
Q. What is your language capability, just English?
KEVIN NA: I speak perfect Korean.
Q. That's it, though, right? Chopra has --
KEVIN NA: -- one up on me.
Q. You moved here when you were seven or eight years old?
KEVIN NA: Seven or eight.
Q. How do you end up with 22 putts at Waialae?
KEVIN NA: I had 22? I wasn't counting. Hitting a lot of fringe. I hit some fringes. Stats can be misleading. I putted very well. Missed one putt, I think, but I hit a lot of fringe.
Q. We're still working on the fly here. Your close call last year was --
KEVIN NA: For the win? I was in the final group at the Heritage when it blew like 40-mile-an-hour winds, and I finished fourth. Colonial I had a chance. I was like in third place making the turn on Sunday. I think that's about it. And then at the Ginn, I think, during the second round I was up there.
Q. At Tesoro?
KEVIN NA: Yeah.
Q. BellSouth never?
KEVIN NA: BellSouth? I played decent but I didn't play that good there.
Q. What did that do for you in terms of being in the thick of it there Sunday at Hilton Head and then Colonial and things like that?
KEVIN NA: It's always fun. I remember when I was playing with Phil at Phoenix, we had a huge crowd. I mean, he was the hometown boy, so everybody was rooting for him. I remember on 17 he had basically won the tournament and I was going to finish second. He said something really nice. He said, "Kevin, you're playing very well. You're going to get your chance." He goes, "I'm not saying it's over. We still have one more hole to play."
He had a four-shot lead. It's over (laughter).
He said, "You know, there's no better feeling than you preparing yourself for the week and getting yourself in contention. You keep getting yourself in a position like this, you're going to get your share of wins."
I thought that was very nice of him to say. Every day I've come out here and tried to get in contention, that's all. And then two weeks later I got in contention and lost in a playoff. I said, "I thought I was supposed to get my share."
Q. Where was that?
KEVIN NA: Tucson. I lost to Geoff Ogilvy in a playoff. The desert and the forest.
DOUG MILNE: When we talked a while back and you said your mom has never missed a tournament, does she still come out?
KEVIN NA: No, last year she barely came out to any tournaments.
Q. But she had never missed one --
KEVIN NA: Two years she didn't come out -- first year she never missed a tournament, and then after that, it was like, "Aw, I kind of like home better." She's not here this week. It's too bad. She'll be out on the West Coast. I think she'll come out more this year.
Q. There's been a lot of griping about the cut rule. Did you know about it?
KEVIN NA: I found out about it today.
Q. When did you find out about it?
KEVIN NA: Just when I was signing my card.
Q. You're okay with it? What do you think of it?
KEVIN NA: I was kind of shocked. I know they had that rule when there's weather delays and stuff, but I kind of have mixed feelings about it. Do you want me to answer? You're trying to get it out of me.
For the officials and the tournament's standpoint and for the pace of play and trying to get it in during the daylight, I understand that part. But you're basically taking away a chance for a guy to make a run on the weekend. There's been plenty of times where a guy makes the cut on the number and wins the golf tournament or even finishes Top 10. Almost every other week guys make the cut on the number, shoot 65 or 67 and finish in the Top 10. I don't know, I think it's taking an opportunity -- a playing opportunity away from a player.
But when you look at it from the tournament's point of view, I can really understand what they're trying to do.
Q. Showing up on a Saturday, threesomes, two tees, starting at --
KEVIN NA: Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with a three-ball on the weekend. I don't mind it. I mean, the pace of play is not as good as a two-ball.
Q. What kind of -- how does this play out do you think when we deal with this new era in golf, as the PGA TOUR loves to call it, the FedExCup? When you're dealing with -- if you take someone -- I think Fleschie said he made the cut on the number, finishes Top 10, so he's lost the chance to pick up however many points. Does the timing of it make it a little more critical?
KEVIN NA: I never thought about it that way. I don't know.
Q. Ryder Cup points?
KEVIN NA: Yeah. Like I said, it's just taking away a chance for somebody to make a run.
Didn't Kirk Triplett do that, too, at Tucson? Or did he make the cut by one extra?
Q. Couch did it in New Orleans, too.
KEVIN NA: And I think Ben Crane did it at Sugarloaf, made it on the number or one better. It always happens.
Q. One last thing, back to the Heritage for just a second. Are you a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup guy?
KEVIN NA: I am both.
Q. You can't be.
KEVIN NA: I can. It's a funny rule because the tournaments, you have to be a naturalized American citizen, which means you have to be born here or your mother is an American citizen, and when you turn 18 you have a choice of becoming an American citizen. So I applied for becoming an American citizen. I naturally became an American citizen because my mother was an American citizen before I was 18, so when I turned 18 I just signed the paperwork.
Q. So you are an American citizen?
KEVIN NA: Yeah.
Q. So you're a Ryder Cup guy?
KEVIN NA: Uh-huh. Actually I sat down with Tim Finchem I think a few years ago. I think it was The Presidents Cup when I finished back-to-back second, I was kind of up there in the points. I think it was Henry and Tim were sitting down, and I said, "So which team do I play for?" I told them my situation. He says, "We'll let you know tomorrow." I said, "I'd love to play for the U.S." He says, "Well, that's not your choice. We have to look into that." He came back and said, "You're eligible." I'm excited.
Q. Fresh start this year for everybody.
KEVIN NA: Yeah.
DOUG MILNE: Congratulations again. Best of luck on the weekend.
End of FastScripts