Korean golfers near top at Tour Championship, Stenson leads

September 24, 2015
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Kevin Na is hitting longer off the tee this week at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

By Brian Han

It’s the PGA Tour’s final event of the year, and the field has been wittled down to the top-30 players in the FedEx Cup standings.

Despite there being a very limited representation of players with a Korean heritage on tour, three of them earned the opportunity to compete this week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga.

Korean American Kevin Na kept up his characteristic consistent play on Thursday.

He shot a 2-under 68 to tie him for fifth after the first round of the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola, but something seemed different.

The 32-year-old who usually relies on his short game and accurate iron play, found some extra strength off the tee and even exceeded the field average (293.6 yards) for driving distance with a 296.5 yard average.

His highlight of the day came on the back nine where he put together a barrage of three consecutive birdies.

On the 442-yard straightaway par-4 14th, Na striped his driver 311 yards down the center of the fairway. He then hit his approach shot to four feet, leaving an easy putt for birdie.

Then on the 525-yard dogleg right par-5 15th, he went for the green in two, but pulled his 3-wood left of the green. He hit his chip to 15 inches and made his second birdie.

Na hit another 311-yard drive on the 16th, followed up with a 183-yard iron shot to six feet and made another putt.

Korean New Zealander Danny Lee shot a 1-under 69, which was good enough to get him in a tie for 11th with Dustin Johnson and red-hot world No. 1 Jason Day.

South Korean Bae Sang-moon struggled to find consistency and finished with a 3-over 73 to put him in tied-for-23rd.

Swede Henrik Stenson took the lead with a blistering 7-under 63 giving him a two-shot lead over Paul Casey and a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy.

He made four birdies and an eagle on the front-nine to shoot a field-topping 29.

Stenson did not win a single tournament in the 2014-2015 season, but with a strong performance this week, he could be the first ever to take home the $10 million FedEx Cup prize without taking home a single trophy.