By Alex Myers
PINEHURST, N.C. -- A bulging disc kept Kevin Na off the course for most of 2013. The thought of the 2014 U.S. Open helped fuel his return.
"I knew that the U.S. Open's going to be at Pinehurst and I heard about no rough and about the collection areas and people told me, 'This is a great golf course for you.' And I heard it over and over," Na said. "My caddie [Kenny Harms] came and he said, 'We're going to the U.S. Open no matter what and we're going to have a chance there.'"
Harms' words look prophetic now after Na shot a first-round 68, but it took a lot of hard work. With Na's inactivity -- he sat out approximately six months -- the golfer fell as low as 215th in the Official World Golf Ranking after a T-48 at the Humana Challenge.
Na has been rapidly climbing since, though. A runner-up at the Memorial last month qualified the one-time PGA Tour winner for this tournament by getting him back inside the top 60 at No. 40.
"Here I am," said Na, who has a T-29 and two missed cuts in three U.S. Open appearances. "Obviously, I got off to a good start, I got three more days to play, but it's a lot of fun. It's exciting to be here."
A big part of Na's recent success -- he's currently No. 10 on the FedEx Cup points list -- can be attributed to his short game. He comes into this week ranked No. 2 on the PGA Tour in scrambling, something he believed would serve him well at Pinehurst No. 2.
"I feel like one of the strengths of my game, is my chipping," said Na, who chipped in for eagle on No. 5. "Obviously, if everyone's missing greens and you have to get up-and-down, I feel like I've got an advantage."