As Kevin Na’s 20-foot birdie putt tracked to the cup on No. 18 Sunday, he felt his hopes of securing an early invitation to the 2013 Masters Tournament were riding with it.
The putt dropped and Na breathed a sigh of relief, knowing he’d probably finish as a member of the “top 16 club.” Being in the top 16 brings with it an automatic spot into the next year’s Masters.
“I was really happy to see that go in,” Na said. “I thought that might secure it.”
The closing birdie gave Na a 4-under-par 68. At the time he finished – he was in the 15th group of 31 – he was tied for 14th place.
He ended up in a tie for 12th place at 2-under-par 286.
Sixteen players, at 2-under and below, finished in the top 16 and will be back at Augusta National next year.
A number of the players inside the top 16, such as Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples, have no worries about returning. As former Masters champions, they have lifetime invitations. For a player like Na, who has one PGA Tour victory in eight-plus years on the tour and came into the week ranked 64th in the world, it is never a sure thing.
In fact, the 28-year-old Na didn’t play in his first Masters until 2011.
“That’s my goal coming into this week,” Na said of finishing in the top 16. “Everytime you come here it’s special. You’re doing something right when you’re coming back to the Masters.”
The closing 68 moved Na from from a tie for 32nd at the start of the round into the top 16.
“I hit it well, I putted well,” he said of the final round. “I did everything well.”
Na was undermined by 75 in the second round. He opened with 71 and had a third-round 72 before his closing 68.
“The second day I didn’t get my sleep over the night,” Na said. “I came out and wasn’t feeling myself and I hit it really poorly and shot 75. I only slept four or five hours and didn’t feel good. It’s not good when you only sleep four or five hours and try to play a major.”
Bo Van Pelt, who shot 64 with a hole-in-one on No. 16, missed out on a top-16 spot when Couples made a 4-footer for par on the 18th hole to finish tied for 12th. Had Couples made bogey, he would have tied for 17th along with Van Pelt and Ben Crane (73 on Sunday).