The Local Knowlege

News & Tours

Fact Check: Is playing with Kevin Na really unfair?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Robert Garrigus' caddie, Brent Henley, made news over the weekend at the Valspar Championship when he criticized Kevin Na's slow play.

"It ain't fair playing with Kevin Na," Henley told Golfweek after Saturday's round. Garrigus shot a one-under 70 on Saturday -- the day he and Na were put on the clock by officials -- followed by a five-over 75 on Sunday, leaving the 54-hole leader T-4.

Related: Na a visceral reminder of golf's slow-play issues

Henley's claim stuck with us. Is it really unfair to play with Kevin Na? Or was Henley just saying stuff? We crunched the numbers, and it turns out that Kevin Na's slow play does seem to have a small but significant effect on his playing partners' score.

blog-kevin-na-strege-480.jpg
We analyzed the scores of every one of Kevin Na's playing partners since the start of 2012 -- when Na's slow pace of play at that year's Players caused a stir -- and compared it to their average score for that round from the entire year. So, for example, if Player X played with Kevin Na in the third round of a 2013 tournament and shot 72, we compared that score to his third-round scoring average from that year.

How'd it turn out? From the start of 2012 through the 2014 Valspar Championship, Kevin Na has played with 220 PGA Tour golfers. On average, those 220 golfers shoot about 0.4 strokes higher when playing with Na. That's almost half a stroke, meaning that if someone plays with Na in all four rounds of a tournament, he'll be expected to shoot 1.6 strokes higher than if he played with someone else.

Related: Fact Check: Is Patrick Reed really a top five player in the world?

If 0.4 shots doesn't sound like a lot, consider it this way: Robert Garrigus played with Kevin Na on Saturday and Sunday at the Valspar and finished the tournament four under. Suppose Garrigus didn't play with Na and was able to save that almost one shot he seemed to have lost. Obviously, Na's pace of play isn't the only factor -- and to Na's credit he has gotten better. But the truth is that Garrigus would probably have finished at five under for the tournament and T-3 with Scott Langley, rather than in a three-way tie for fourth. So, how much was that shot worth? More than $150,000.

Turns out his caddie may have been onto something. 

Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today