When Kevin Na received an email to electronically register for the Masters, he joked on social media, “Why isn’t there an ‘I decline’ button? He laughed at the memory, but as he prepares for what will be his 11e appearance at Augusta National, he knows as well as anyone why one button will do. “I don’t think there is anyone in the world who would refuse,” he said.

Getting a place in the year’s first major already is one of the reasons Na is smiling. He is also arguably just off his best season, which included two wins, a place in the Tour Championship and a third place in the FedEx Cup. During the offseason, he also teamed up to win the QBE Shootout with Jason Kokrak in December. Now Na returns to the site of his last official victory, where he attributes a 5 to 15 foot wood to the Devil 13th and the birdie he made there as the key to winning the Sony Open all at once. last year in Hawaii.

“During the putt I was like, ‘Dude, I really need this one,’ and I was really happy to see him come in,” he said. “You know, that kinda relaxed me a bit too.”

After enduring a nearly seven-year winless drought, Na has won four consecutive seasons on the PGA Tour and this week ranks 27th in the official world golf rankings. He went from being a constant competitor who rarely closed the deal to a constant winner as he learned to control his emotions under pressure.

“I went so many years without winning that I kind of forgot that feeling, and when I validated it at Greenbrier (in 2018) it made me want more. When you start over you know it seems like the next one is easier, ”he said. “It used to be like, ‘Can I do this? I don’t know.’ Now I know that if I put myself in this position I have a good chance of being successful.

Na, ranked 170e in driving distance each of the last two seasons, knows he has to pick his spots, or as he says, “some golf courses, 20th place is at the max for me”. Waialae Country Club on the Big Island is a golf course that has always adapted its brand of small ball, which relies on the precision of its irons, a delicate touch around the greens and walking in putts when in a groove. . Measuring 7,044 meters, Waialae falls into the category of courses where Na does not feel at a disadvantage even before having started.

Kevin Na lines up his shot on the first green in the third round of the Tour Championship golf tournament on Saturday, September 4, 2021 at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Photo by Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

“Waialae is an excellent golf course. It’s a golf course where everyone can win, ”he said. “You don’t have to be a style of play. It’s the one that hits the best and puts the best.

“It’s a golf course that you don’t have to master, and I think because of my good iron game I have an advantage here and you have to make a few putts. There are other golf courses out there, ones that I have won, like Colonial is a prime example. I think Hilton Head is one of the tournaments I would love to win to get it off my checklist. And the Players Championship is a golf course where you’ve seen all kinds of winners, all kinds of styles of players. There are still a lot of golf courses left in the calendar that I would like to win.

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Na has won twice in 2019 and failed to make the US Presidents Cup squad and was not picked as captain’s pick by Steve Stricker for the Ryder Cup squad last fall despite its good form. To hear Na say it, three wins before the selection of the team to represent the Stars and Stripes at Quail Hollow later this year would make him a slam dunk for the Davis Love III team.

“If you’re automatically qualified, you don’t have to depend on choosing a captain, then that’s okay,” Na said. “So I just need to play a little better. “