Wednesday 24 January 2018

NA nowhere near worst ever

Mark Garrod

American Kevin Na is a lot more famous now than he was a week ago - but for anyone who thinks taking 16 on one hole is as bad as it can get in golf read on.

Sixteen years ago Golf Digest magazine held a competition to find the United States' worst avid player and took the finalists to the Sawgrass course in Florida best known for staging the Players Championship every season.

Not surprisingly, it was on the notorious short 17th that 31-year-old Pennsylvania grocer Angelo Spagnolo made a real name for himself - with a 66.

Spagnolo hit 27 balls into the lake either from the tee or the drop zone before it was suggested to him that he might be best off trying a different route.

So instead of taking dead aim he went left of the water and then tacked his way up to the narrow pathway back left which everybody playing the hole uses to get to the green.

He carefully putted along that, eventually completed the hole and after playing the 18th signed for a round of 257. It was unbeatable stuff and the pathway became known as "Angelo's Alley."

Whether the ninth hole at the Oaks Course in San Antonio is renamed as "Kevin's Calamity" or "Na's Nightmare" remains to be seen, but the 27-year-old will certainly not be allowed to forget it for a while.

Just to recap, it was the worst score on a par four since the PGA Tour started recording hole-by-hole figures in 1983.

Na drove right into an unplayable lie and returned to the tee. His third shot went right again into the woods and his next shot rebounded off a tree and hit him, incurring another penalty stroke.

He then had to take another unplayable drop, but could not extricate himself from the woods either on his next attempt or on his following four, two of which he played left-handed and one of those where he missed the ball.

Finally he made it into the rough, stayed in, then found the fringe, then the green - and single-putted from just under six feet.

If Na, who admitted he lost count, had birdied the hole he would have finished the day as joint leader. Instead he had an 80, a memorable score this month given what happened to Rory McIlroy at Augusta.

At least Na does not have a history of such scores - unlike John Daly, who became almost as well known for his on-course disasters as for his majors, wives, drinking and gambling.

In 1994 he had a 12 in New Orleans after hitting three balls in water, in 1996 the same score in Atlanta - that included three left-handed misses in the rough - and in 1998 a record 18 on the par five sixth at Bay Hill. Six balls were left in the lake there.

Later the same year at Birkdale he had seven shots from three different bunkers for a 10 on the final hole, in 1999 he six-putted the last green at Muirfield Village for another 10 and at the US Open the same month he swatted a moving ball in anger and took 11.

He vowed never to play that event again, but was back at Pebble Beach a year later and ran up a 14 on the long 18th with three balls in the Pacific Ocean.

And six years ago back at Bay Hill "Wild Thing" Daly was in the rocks just short of the 18th green and four swings later was three inches closer to the hole. It led to an 11.

"The legend grows," said playing partner Billy Andrade that day. "It's John being John - not a shock."

The European Tour record was the 20 by Philippe Porquier in the 1978 French Open, but England's Chris Gane had a good crack at trying to beat it at Gleneagles in 2003.

Two weeks after achieving an albatross - a two on a par five - the left-hander took 17 on the par five 18th and after all his trouble in the knee-high rough left of the green said: "Have you ever seen the film 'Zorro'? That's what it was like with all my slashing at it."

Na gave a helpful commentary on his 16 as he had agreed to wear a television microphone for the day.

"How are we going to count all the shots?" he said to his caddie.

"I have no idea," came the reply. "But next time I say 'let's go back to the tee', let's go back to the tee!"

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