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Weekly Recap: Na Snails It In

Len Hochberg

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years, covering the Washington Capitals. He co-authored a book on the history of hockey.

It doesn't take a whole lot of digging to determine why John Senden did not win his second career PGA Tour tournament until Sunday: He hasn't been a good putter.

Year after year, the Aussie has been among the very best on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation. In a six-year stretch beginning in 2006, he ranked third, second, 10th, first, first and fifth. Conversely, in strokes gained-putting in those years, he ranked 133rd, 164th, 162nd, 92nd, 130th and 64th. That last number represented his best career standing in that vital statistic - until this year.

So far this season, Senden is 10th in strokes gained-putting. He was 16th (0.967) in the Valspar Championship, which, combined with being third in greens in regulation (52-of-72, 72.2 percent), proved a winning combination, especially when no one in the field can reach double digits under par.

And so the 42-year-old Senden, in his 13th year on Tour, won for the first time since the 2006 John Deere Classic.

With many big names skipping Copperhead after playing the past two weeks at the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship, the themes of the week included the difficult playing conditions, slow play and the Snake Pit, the closing three-hole stretch. Yes, it seems one of the newest trends in golf is a three-hole nickname. Two weeks ago, it was the Bear Trap. This week, the Snake Pit featured the par-four, 475-yard 16th; the par-three, 215-yard 17th; and the par-four, 445-yard 18th.

Gimmicky names aside, this is where Senden won it, chipping in from 70 feet on 16, one of only two birdies all day on the toughest hole on the course; sinking a 20-foot birdie on 17 and taking a two-putt par from 40 feet to hold off Kevin Na by one stroke.

Which brings us to slow play. Na was in the final group with speedy Robert Garrigus on Saturday, and they were put on the clock, bringing an outcry from social media circles and the topic of slow play on Tour to the fore again. Being put on the clock clearly unnerved Garrigus, who lost most of a four-stroke lead by the end of the round. It was the first time he had been put on the clock in his 17-year career.

"It ain't fair playing with Kevin Na," Brent Henley, Garrigus' caddie, told Golfweek. Well, okay then!

"Slow play is killing the PGA Tour and our game!" Billy Horschel, who wasn't even in the field, tweeted on Saturday. Well, okay then!

MONDAY BACKSWING

Kevin Na

Na showed something by finishing second, a stroke behind Senden, coming back not only from the slow-play controversy but a front-nine 39 on Sunday. He could've folded his tent after a bogey-bogey-double stretch on Nos. 6 through 8. But he played the rest of the way in 2-under, including a birdie on 17 that made things interesting.

Will MacKenzie

MacKenzie turned in his fourth top 10 of the season and third in the past five weeks with a T4. He wasn't eligible for the WGC-Cadillac, but MacKenzie also was T6 the week before in a very strong field at the Honda. He's now 20th in the FedEx Cup standings, a valuable fantasy option after being an afterthought at the start of the season.

Luke Donald

Donald has put together a strong three-week stretch, T8 at the Honda, T25 at the Cadillac and T4 at Valspar. But this week could've been much more for the Englishman, who traditionally plays well in this event. In fact, it was his last PGA Tour win, back in 2012. But with the course playing tough and only one other big name on the leader board, Donald recorded two three-putt bogeys on the back nine on Sunday.

Justin Rose

Rose was the other big name, and his putter failed him, too, just when it looked as if he could ascend to victory and get in prime shape for the Masters. But he bogeyed thrice on the back nine to end up tied for eighth. There's still time to tune up for Augusta, with Rose playing next at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which he finished second last year to Tiger Woods.

Chesson Hadley

After a breakthrough win last week in Puerto Rico, the rookie was due for an understandable letdown. Hadley opened with a predictable 4-over 75. He easily could've slid into a missed cut and continued to enjoy his victory lap. But shot 70 to make it to the weekend, then 67-71 to rally for a top-15 finish, at T14.

Retief Goosen

Goosen's best days are behind him, but he is a two-time Innisbrook champion (2003, '09). And, after rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64 on Saturday, it seemed he could steal a third title there. That was before he shot 15 strokes worse on Sunday, carding a 79 to fall 39 spots to T44. There were four straight bogeys on the front nine before a triple on No. 16.

Brandt Snedeker

Nine events played in the 2013-14 season, and Snedeker, No. 19 in the world coming into the week, finds himself 115th in the FedEx Cup standings. A T58 was the latest indication that he is not the same golfer he was last year. Whether the knee he injured late last year in a Segway accident in China is still bothering him, he isn't saying. Snedeker doesn't even have so much as a top 10 this season.

Mark Blakefield and Mike Hebert

Both golfers made their PGA Tour debuts after securing two of the four spots in the field via Monday qualifying. Neither made the cut, Blakefield shooting 72-78 and Hebert 76-75. Who knows when or if either one will make it back. Hebert is only 23, but Blakefield is 31. Blakefield had a moment of glory on Thursday, hitting his tee ball at the monster 235-yeard, par-3 eighth hole to two feet, from where he made birdie.