Kevin Na's Iron Heads GC had one of the more stable rosters this season, using the same lineup six times in eight events. They also had an identity, with two Korean-born Americans (Na and Sihwan Kim) and two rising stars from Thailand (Sadom Kaewkanjana and Phachara Khongwatmai). As you might imagine, the latter duo were quite popular during the Bangkok tournament.
But from a performance standpoint? Well, there was nothing consistent about this team. They were all over the map, very difficult to predict. Dead-last one week, they'd challenge for the podium the next time out. It was a roller-coaster ride, both for the team and its individual players.
The most appropriate examples came in Boston. Kim opened with a 17-over 87 ... then followed it with a 7-under 63, an amazing 24-stroke improvement. And in the final round, the Iron Heads were five strokes ahead at the midway point but struggled down the stretch, eventually finishing six shots behind the winners. That basically sums up the Iron Heads' campaign.
They finished fourth in two events, and fifth in another, but were outside the points (top eight) in the other four events. They never claimed team money during the regular season, and were swept in the quarterfinals in Miami. At the end, Na was playing on fumes after falling ill in Bangkok and withdrawing in Jeddah. Perhaps that roller coaster left him dizzy.
At the inaugural London event, Kevin Na drafted Richard Bland, along with youngsters Sadom Kaewkanjana and Viraj Madappa. Na then made a draft-day trade, acquiring Hideto Tanihara from Crushers for Bland. Two changes were made for the next event in Portland, as Phachara Khongwatmai (transferring from Crushers) and Sihwan Kim (the initial Smash captain) replaced Tanihara and Madappa. Scott Vincent replaced Kim for Bedminster, then Kim returned to the lineup for Boston. From there, the foursome of Na, Kim, Kaewkanjana and Khongwatmai remained intact.
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TEAM: Twice during the regular season, in Boston and Bangkok, the Iron Heads came within one stroke of finishing in the money. It was in Boston where they had the best chance at a podium. Na had his best week of the season, and Kaewkanjana provided three counting scores in the 60s. Kim had that incredible bounce-back 63, and Khongwatmai finished with a 66. Some untimely bogeys down the stretch proved fatal, but the Iron Heads proved there were capable of making a run.
INDIVIDUAL: The fortitude that Sihwan Kim showed in Boston was admirable. After opening with an 17-over 87, it would've been easy to check out. But he was determined to contribute to his team, and his 24-shot improvement the next day goes down as one of the biggest bounce-back rounds in professional golf. “A playing wreck with my swing,” Kim explained about his first day. “Lots of things going on in my head. Just kind of lost it yesterday. But I found something on the range today.”
SIHWAN KIM. Based on pure results, the 33-year-old – who began the season as the Smash GC captain before joining the Iron Heads – delivered more than any other Iron Heads player. Kim finished 24th on the season-long Individual Champion list, the best showing on his team. He had the Iron Heads' only top-10 points finish, coming in 5th in Bangkok, and he had the most point finishes (three times). Plus, he had the team's lowest round of the year, that 63 in Boston. Yes, it went off the rails on occasion, but he displayed some consistency in his final two regular season starts. Will be interesting to see if he can improve in that area.
Others considered: Kevin Na had two top-15 finishes and showed plenty of grit down the stretch in the final round in Boston, where he finished 11th in points but T-9th on the scoring leaderboard. Additional props in trying to play through the late-season illness that forced him to hook up to an IV before rounds.
LONDON (+16), 12th place
Rd. 1: Tanihara 70, Madappa 71
Rd. 2: Na 71, Madappa 74
Rd. 3: Kaewkanjana 72, Tanihara 74, Madappa 74
PORTLAND (-5), 5th place
Rd. 1: Kim 72, Na 75
Rd. 2: Kim 68, Na 68
Rd. 3: Khongwatmai 70, Na 72, Kaewkanjana 74
BEDMINSTER (+3), 10th place
Rd. 1: Khongwatmai 66, Vincent 70
Rd. 2: Kaewkanjana 71, Khongwatmai 72
Rd. 3: Khongwatmai 73, Kaewkanjana 73, Na 75
BOSTON (-26), 4th place
Rd. 1: Na 66, Kaewkanjana 67
Rd. 2: Kim 63, Kaewkanjana 66
Rd. 3: Khongwatmai 66, Na 67, Kaewkanjana 69
CHICAGO (-1), 11th place
Rd. 1: Kaewkanjana 70, Kim 72
Rd. 2: Khongwatmai 72, Na 73
Rd. 3: Na 70, Khongwatmai 72, Kim 74
BANGKOK (-36), 4th place
Rd. 1: Kim 67, Na 67, Khongwatmai 71
Rd. 2: Kim 66, Na 68, Kaewkanjana 69
Rd. 3: Kim 68, Kaewkanjana 68, Khongwatmai 68
JEDDAH (-11), 12th place
Rd. 1: Khongwatmai 68, Kim 68, Na 70
Rd. 2: Kim 65, Kaewkanjana 68, Khongwatmail 71
Rd. 3: Khongwatmai 67, Kaewkanjana 71, Kim 71
QUARTERFINALS: Lost to Majesticks GC, 3-0
Na lost to Poulter, 4 & 2
Kim lost to Westwood, 4 & 3
Kaewkanjana/Khongwatmai lost to Horsfield/Stenson, 4 & 2
Prize earnings: $1,000,000
6 – Top 15 individual point finishes by Iron Heads players (Na 13th, Kim 15th in Portland; Khongwatmai 15th in Bedminster; Na 11th, Kaewkanjana 13th in Boston; Kim 5th in Bangkok)
24 – Strokes improvement for Kim from the first round (87) to the second round (63) in Boston
63 – Lowest score shot by any Iron Heads player during the regular season (Kim, Rd. 2 in Boston)
70.60 – Phachara Khongwatmai's scoring average for his 18 regular season rounds for Iron Heads
71.11 – Kevin Na's scoring average for his 18 regular season rounds
71.2 – Sihwan Kim's scoring average for his 15 regular season rounds for Iron Heads
71.54 – Scoring average for all Iron HeadsGC players during the seven regular season events (course average was 71.0)
72.10 – Sadom Kaewkanjana's scoring average for his 21 regular season rounds
100 – Percentage of fairways hit by Na and Kaewkanjana in the first round of Boston. Each player was 13 of 13
136 – Cumulative team total for Iron Heads in Rd. 2 at Portland (Kim 68, Na 68). It was the only time the Iron Heads shot/tied for the lowest team score in any round during the regular season
412– Yardage of one of Kim's measured drives in the final round in Jeddah
I think this team aspect of LIV has been very successful. I think it's created a lot of buzz around the golf world. I think people are learning more and more about it, and as they're learning about it, they're getting more excited about it. Even the players, as well; we feel very excited about who's going to be on our team, who's going to be our sponsor. We're constantly talking about who to recruit.
- CAPTAIN KEVIN NA ON LIV GOLF'S TEAM COMPONENT