Na and O'Hair scramble for 56 to seize Shootout lead

Miami (AFP) –


Kevin Na's uncanny putting performance lifted him and partner Sean O'Hair into the lead after Friday's opening round of the QBE Shootout with a 16-under par 56 scramble score.

Na sank 30-foot eagle putts at the par-5 sixth and 17th holes in a day of long-putt mastery as the US duo seized a one-stroke lead in an unofficial PGA Tour event played without spectators at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

Americans Ryan Palmer and Harold Varner, who set the event scramble record with a 55 in 2017, were second after a 57 with Canada's Mackenzie Hughes and American Lanto Griffin as well as the US pairings of Matt Kuchar and Harris English third on 58.

With Na almost always the finisher, he and O'Hair birdied the first four holes, followed a par at the par-3 fifth with Na's first eagle putt, then birdied the next six holes to stand 12-under after 12 holes.

Na sank a 15-footer to birdie the par-5 14th and holed a 20-footer to birdie the par-4 15th, made an eight-footer for par at the par-3 16th before his final eagle and a tap-in par at 18 after missing a birdie bid from 20 feet.

"I've never seen anything like that in my life," O'Hair said. "I felt if we were on the green we were making birdie. Golf is pretty easy when you play the way he did today."

Na gave deserved credit to O'Hair for his approaches and rolling a lot of putts that missed but enabled the South Korean-born standout to get a perfect read on breaks in the putts.

"He made a lot of good putts that gave me the read. He was the guinea pig," Na said. "He put me in position where I could make putts.

"He hit a lot of good ones close and I made the putt. When we weren't close, we made the putts. We were hamming and egging it nicely."

Na said the hot-putter feeling reminded him of his most recent of four US PGA Tour victories, which came last year at Las Vegas when he fired a third-round 61 and beat Patrick Cantlay in a playoff.

"It was pretty comical at one point out there when he was making all those putts," Hughes said.

After Friday's scramble format, the 12 pairs play a modified alternate shot format on Saturday and close with a four-ball on Sunday.

Defending champions Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia and Kevin Tway of the United States fired a 59 to share fifth with Americans Cameron Champ and Tony Finau.