Kevin Na’s Anxious Mind Obstructs His Ability to Perform

At the 2015 Shriners Hospital For Children Open Kevin Na put himself in a position to win his second PGA Tour event in a row (the other being the FRYS.COM Open the week prior) in the closing holes of both events—not an easy task. Sadly, Kevin Na made a Big Mistake in critical moments causing him to fall short in both instances. Unfortunately for Kevin, instead of adding two more PGA Tour victories to his mantle, he is still fighting those internal battles that keep him from Freedom and growing his PGA Tour victory count.

Kevin’s Big Mistake at the Shriners involved yet another “Unsatisfactory Execution”, this time it was with a simple chip shot on the 71st hole, just when he had just earned a share of the lead. It’s important to realize that just one mistake in the wrong place can be devastating which can add to further emotional trauma, all the more reason to keep your attention on your Key Performance Markers (KPMs) during play. In Na’s case, his Unsatisfactory KPM on that chip shot cost to him dearly, not only in the pocketbook but also perhaps more so in his psyche. The week prior, at the FRYS.COM Open, Kevin made an “Unsatisfactory Execution” with his 2nd shot on the 2nd sudden death hole against Emiliano Grillo that likely cost Na that PGA Tour win.

Instead of winning both those PGA Tour events and increasing his total PGA Tour victories to three, Na also left $1,228,267.00 in cash on the table, not to mention the bonus money for Tour wins that are attached to each of his endorsement contracts. Na is paying a significant price for his two simple mistakes—and at what price can you put on Freedom-of-mind that enables one to perform to their full capability?

The Situation
Similar to the FRYS.COM Open, the previous Tour event where Kevin Na performed impressively while making lengthy putts to get into the playoff with Emiliano Grillo, Na made another lengthy 26-foot birdie putt on the 70th hole at the Shriners to grab a share of the lead (-16) with Smylie Kaufman, a rookie who happened to shoot a smooth little 61 in the final round to take his first PGA Tour victory in just his fifth PGA Tour start.

Pressure Situations with an Anxious Mind

It is quite obvious Kevin Na struggles internally with his anxious mind. Most PGA Tour professionals learn to manage their anxious thoughts, but nobody on Tour struggles so openly as Kevin Na. It’s fair to say Kevin Na, who has an incredibly sound golf swing, has come a long way in dealing with his mind battles. Na certainly deserves credit for his excellent progress. But as jumpy and unsettled as Na still is when it comes to being in

contention in the last few holes, he’s a professional that has made great advancements with his mental affliction, more than most other more notable players who have the same thought disorders.

The Final Four Holes at the Shriners

Na had a minimum of two Lost Shot Events (holes 15 & 17) in his last four holes during the final round of the Shriners. As a co-leader with two holes to play, Na’s short iron tee shot on the par-3, 17th hole at TPC Summerlin on Sunday came up just short of the green with its front hole-placement. Sure it wasn’t Na’s best shot from the tee but like the pro that he is, Na left his ball in a great position for a relatively simple chip, a chip that he likely had thoughts of chipping-in, or at worse, getting it up-and-down without a problem. At that point, Na had gone 27-holes without making a bogey–pretty impressive management on Na’s part. Na, who has one of the best short games in the world, should have been able to perform his two KPM’s (his Assessment & Execution) on that simple chip shot without issue.

Unfortunately for Kevin Na those two “Unsatisfactory Execution” on golf shots that should have been relatively simple for him, is starting to define him. For the second week in a row Na allowed two “Unsatisfactory Execution” KPM’s, to get in the way of two possible PGA Tour victories.

ASAP Sports Transcripts:
KEVIN NA: “Seems like if I do finish second, it’s going to be probably my eighth second place in my career. I played great today. My emotions were real level, felt like I never was up or down, played great. I hit a lot of great shots, a lot of good putts. I feel like I’m one of the best short games on TOUR, and to hit a chip like that, and as comfortable as I felt over the ball — the lie was actually sitting up too high, like it was on a tee, and I just went under it. And with the Bermuda into the grain, I don’t know what happened. I just — you know, I didn’t feel like I hit a bad chip. I felt like it was a good tempo, but the lie was sitting up maybe a little too high.”

Q. You know how hard it is to win out here, just one win in 301 starts, and I’m not trying to rub that in, but talk about these guys coming off the TOUR. Smylie Kaufman goes and posts a 61 today, puts 16- under on the board. What about this generation of kids that just come off the TOUR and are ready- made winners?

KEVIN NA: “Ignorance is bliss. I guess it’s one of those things, they play with nothing to lose. I’m sure he’s a great player. I don’t know him very well. But he played a hell of a round, and hat’s off to him.”

MindLink Golf:

Kevin Na has now finished 2nd eight times on the PGA Tour with one PGA Tour victory. With the benefit of hindsight, all Na needed to do, was to eliminate those two “Unsatisfactory” KPM’s in his performance in those critical moments and his PGA Tour career record would show 3 PGA Tour wins and 6 second place finishes. Never mind the stability it would have brought to balancing his mindset battles.

It’s unfortunate Na tells himself and others those silly excuses, “the lie was actually sitting up too high, like it was on a tee, and I just went under it.” Then Kevin stated, “…I don’t know what happened. I just – you know, I didn’t feel like I hit a bad chip…”. When in reality, Na made an “Unsatisfactory Execution” with a simple chip shot. He certainly has the talent to deal with those difficult situations when he’s confronted with a lie that is sitting up too high. But in that moment he didn’t have the presence of mind to “Execute” to his standard. And then after the fact he doesn’t have the awareness to understand how his mind is enabling his own thoughts to sabotage himself.

Kevin is correct that these current young players like Emiliano Grillo, Smylie Kaufman and many other young players coming up, have nothing to lose. Ignorance is bliss but their ignorance will pass soon enough. Those young players will lose their ignorance and learn to deal with their own mind’s expectations as they develop into veteran Tour players like Na. Sometimes Freedom does come with ignorance, but it’s fleeting. And what Kevin Na is losing, by not attending to his KPM performance, is his own Freedom.

When Performance Matters

Kevin Na is making wonderful progress to stay in the moment but he still needs to keep his mind present, particularly in those critical moments when pressure mounts in the closing holes. He’d make it a lot easier on himself if he placed his full attention on performing his KPMs rather than letting his mind project forward to stimulate his anxieties to a point where it impedes his ability to execute simple shots.

Define the moment or the moment defines you.

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