Kevin Na, slow play and heckling

Kevin Na is fighting the slow-play demons, but should we feel sorry for him and does it justify the heckling?

The weekend’s golf from the PGA Tour offered up a few interesting stories. Matt Kuchar’s victory at The PLAYERS Championship was obviously a talking point, but almost overshadowing his win was the discussion about the slow-play from Kevin Na, and the associated on-course heckling he received.

You may recall Kevin Na as being that guy who recorded a 16 on one hole last year, but he is also known as one of the slowest golfers on the PGA Tour. His waggles and wiggles over the golf ball is painful to watch and I can only imagine how much it must hurt to play alongside him for a full round.

On the weekend Na was in contention to win the prestigious PLAYERS Championship right up until the final few holes. He hit some wonderful golf shots including a beauty from the cart path on the final hole.

The thing is though, his slow play is now legendary and the galleries following Na know it. He was heckled on several occasions during the weekend, in particular down the stretch on Sunday.

On the par-3 13th hole for example, Na found the water with his tee shot and you could clearly hear the crowd singing, “Na, na, na, na, hey hey hey, good-bye”. At other times Na was backing away from shots because of the heckling, which began a vicious circle as he backed off more and more, as the heckling increased.

One may be tempted to feel a little sorry for Na who is obviously is having trouble committing to the golf shot and he claims he is fully aware his battle with these psychological demons.

“I’m trying to get comfortable with my waggles. It’s usually a little waggle, half waggle, little waggle, half waggle, and boom, supposed to pull the trigger. But if it doesn’t work, I’ve got to go in pairs. So it’ll go four; and if it doesn’t work, it’ll go six; and after that, just ‑‑ there’s a lot going on in my head.”, Na said.

“And I’m not being nice to myself, trust me. I’m ripping myself. Honestly, I’m trying, and it’s hard for me, too”.

The thing is, Na has been a slow golfer for a very long time and slow golf is not just painful to watch but extremely selfish no matter what the causes. In fact, it sounds a lot like the slow-play is all part of his routine.

The PGA Tour could easily resolve this issue by actually handing out penalties for slow play but they haven’t done it for 20 years so we shouldn’t expect them to do so in the near future. Na was clearly perturbed by the heckling and played some poor shots when he was trying to play quicker, but I don’t feel a lot of sympathy for him. Slow play is against the rules and is essentially a form of cheating fi done so without penalty.

It is clear that the heckling he received was out of line. I’d like to think that the game of golf remains a test between the golfer and the golf course no matter what level of golf, or tournament importance. But I can’t help but think that if the PGA Tour had done something about slow play many years ago, we would not have had the galleries policing the issue themselves on the weekend.

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