Na says No

By Neil Connolly, in Sport, Golf · 01-04-2021 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

It’s a refreshing change when we get to watch 64 of the best tournament professionals compete against each other in a match play format.

Rarely can the winner be predicted because form can only be measured over 18 holes. Jon Rahm said it best this week, “you just have to beat the person in front of you.”

Which was quite an interesting point to make considering the eventual runner up, the little-known Scottie Scheffler took care of the master match player, Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm in the same day. A feat that was not missed by the US golfing public and Steve Stricker the current US Ryder Cup captain. It’s a little early to start predicting pairings, but Scheffler must have increased his stock value considerably for this year’s Ryder Cup matches.

The unpredictable nature of match play couldn’t have been born out more obviously, when you consider that Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey didn’t make it out of the group stages of which there were four players in 16 groups.

But there was a classic match play moment, or I should say conflict, on Friday afternoon between Kevin Na and Dustin Johnson. A fractious moment which has been the centre of many golfing conversations over the weekend. Should Kevin Na have said something or should he have stayed quiet?

The situation was this, Johnson had a 5 foot putt to win the eleventh hole, which he lipped out. The ball came to rest a little more than six inches away from the hole. Clearly annoyed that he’d missed the putt, Johnson then knocked the ball away from the hole and started walking towards the next tee. The issue was that Na had not conceded the putt. So then came the conundrum, should he claim the hole or not.

He chose not to, but made sure Johnson knew about the indiscretion, and that Na would not be so forgiving the next time. The rules are very clear - a putt has to be conceded and clearly communicated to the opposition for it to be taken out of play.

Personally, within this situation there was a little bit of disrespect shown to Na. Johnson’s minor peak of temper left him acting rashly. What I did like, and much to Na’s credit was that Kevin acted immediately, had no regard that he was talking to the world number one, it was simply one competitor talking to another and putting him straight. Something that can only happen in golf.

The problem for Johnson, was that even though Na had no intention of claiming the hole, Johnson had been chastised and, in a strange and minor way, was in Na’s debt for him not claiming the hole. It’s almost as if he had a double high ground, the first for letting the situation go and the second for taking immediate action and not claiming the hole.

Na went on to win the match by birdieing 5 of the last seven holes; the commentators speculating that Dustin Johnson didn’t seem like the same player after the incident.

Now you would be well within your rights to say, if he wasn’t going to claim the hole why did he bother saying anything at all. That’s the reason why I believe it came down to a little bit of disrespect. What is interesting is that fellow competitors in the same tournament have all said that Kevin acted exactly correctly and how they would have done.

On a slightly less testy note, it’s one week to go now until we’re back on the golf course and it’s Masters week!



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