Jason Kokrak wins Charles Schwab Challenge, denies Jordan Spieth
Jason Kokrak, as far as we can tell, is a good guy. The 36-year-old’s grinded out a solid PGA Tour career. On Saturday at the Charles Schwab Challenge, he wore a colorful shirt decorated by watermelons. But after his third round, Kokrak knew he’d be a villain on Sunday. One stroke ahead of him at Colonial Country Club, in Fort Worth, Texas, was Jordan Spieth, of Dallas, Texas. And Kokrak’s from … not Texas. (He’s from Ohio.)
“Jordan birdied 13, the par-3, and I walked off the green, [and] I was like, ‘Well, I’m definitely not the favorite here this week,”” Kokrak said.
“He’s a Texas guy. I’m an Ohio guy. It’s fun. The crowds are crazy. But it’s fun to have a local kid and play well and him be in the last group, and I’d be more than happy to spoil it for him tomorrow.”
The eyes of Texas may have a few tears this week.
Behind a three-birdie-over-six-hole stretch, Kokrak shot an even-par 70 on Sunday for a 14-under total and a two-shot victory over Spieth. No other player was closer than four strokes. It’s Kokrak’s second Tour victory, following his win at the CJ Cup last October.
The tournament swung after a throw.
Kokrak would work his way to a one-shot lead a third of the way through Sunday’s round, only to take two shots to get out of a greenside bunker on the 434-yard, par-4 7th and bogey the hole. He’d pluck his ball out of the cup, then toss it away. Naturally, there were a few claps from the pro-Spieth contingent.
From there, he birdied the next hole, the 175-yard, par-3 8th, to reclaim his lead. After Spieth birdied the 387-yard, par-4 9th to pull even again, Kokrak birdied the 629-yard, par-5 11th to take back his lead again. He made it a two-shot advantage with a birdie on the 170-yard, par-3 13th, and he hung on, despite two bogeys over his last five holes.
On the 377-yard, par-4 17th, after two straight bogeys that dropped his lead to a stroke, Kokrak dropped a 7-footer to exchange pars with Spieth. Then on the 435-yard, par-4 18th, Kokrak two-putted for par, while Spieth hit his approach into the water left of the green.
The gallery still cheered.
The big takeaway
Kokrak, after not winning over the first 200-plus tournaments of his career, has now won twice this season, and his game makes him a favorite for more. The Spieth resurgence, meanwhile, continues, despite a few hiccups on Sunday.
The big shots
- Jordan Spieth begins the final round at 15 under, and he holds a one-shot lead over Jason Kokrak, and a five-shot lead over Sergio Garcia. After three holes, Spieth and Kokrak are tied — and Garcia is essentially out of it. Kokrak bogeys the 551-yard, par-5 1st, while Spieth bogeys the 379-yard, par-4 2nd and the 470-yard, par-4 3rd to head to the 4th tied at 13 under. Garcia, meanwhile, bogeys the 1st and double-bogeys the 3rd.
- Spieth and Kokrak bogey the 241-yard, par-3 4th after both missing the green on their tee shots. They are both at 12 under. It is Spieth’s third straight bogey.
- Kokrak birdies the 467-yard, par-4 5th on a 23-foot putt to take a one-stroke lead over Spieth. He is at 13 under, while Spieth is at 12.
- Kokrak and Spieth birdie the 407-yard, par-4 6th, after Kokrak hits his approach to 9 feet, and Spieth to 2 feet. Kokrak is at 14 under, while Spieth is 13.
- Kokrak bogeys the 434-yard, par-4 7th after mishitting a shot from the left greenside bunker. He and Spieth are tied at 13 under.
- Kokrak birdies the 175-yard, par-3 8th after hitting his tee shot to within 6 feet and retakes a one-shot lead. He is at 14 under, while Spieth is at 13.
- Spieth birdies the 387-yard, par-4 9th to head to the back nine even with Kokrak, at 14 under. Spieth hits his tee shot in the fairway, but it lands in a divot, then he knocks his approach just over the water fronting the green and to within a foot of the cup.
- Kokrak birdies the 629-yard, par-5 11th on a 13-foot putt and retakes a one-shot lead. He’s at 15 under, while Spieth is at 14.
- Kokrak birdies the 170-yard, par-3 13th on a 17-foot birdie putt. He takes a two-shot lead after Spieth pars the hole on a 8-foot comebacker. Kokrak is at 16 under, while Spieth is at 14.
- Spieth and Kokrak bogey the 425-yard, par-4 15th, and Kokrak’s lead remains two. Spieth was short of the green on his approach, while Kokrak three-putted from 64 feet. Kokrak’s at 15 under, and Spieth’s at 13.
- Kokrak bogeys the 183-yard, par-3 16th after hitting into a greenside bunker, and his lead drops to one over Spieth. He’s at 14 under, and Spieth’s at 13.
- Kokrak pars the 377-yard, par-4 17th on a 7-foot putt, and his lead remains one heading to the 18th. He’s at 14 under, and Spieth is at 13.
- Kokrak pars the 435-yard, par-4 18th, while Spieth bogeys it after hitting into the water left of the green on his second shot. Kokrak finishes at 14 under, and he wins his second PGA Tour tournament.
The final word
“A couple of comments I didn’t appreciate coming down the stretch, but naturally you’re going to pull for the hometown kid. I appreciate it. I appreciate the gamesmanship. Jordan was amazing all day. He’s a true champion and he’s won multiple times and is an incredible player. I’m glad to be standing victorious above a guy that’s so good.” — Kokrak on the pro-Spieth crowd