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Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak birdie 12 of final 13 holes (!) to win QBE Shootout

Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na

Jason Kokrak, after Saturday’s second round of the QBE Shootout, was asked his approach down three strokes entering Sunday’s final round, and this being a two-player event, he turned to another two-player event to sum it up. “Ride my horse to the finish,” Kokrak said. “I told him over there I’ll be there when he needs me.”

And rode his horse he did. And be there when needed he did, too. 

Behind a ridiculous closing run of 12 birdies in 13 holes, including seven straight on Kevin Na’s ball, the team of Na and Kokrak stormed from behind to win the Shootout by one shot over the team of Billy Horschel and Sam Burns, and two shots over second-round leaders Marc Leishman and Jason Day and defending champions Matt Kuchar and Harris English. Na and Kokrak finished Sunday’s four-ball format with a 12-under 60 at Tiburon Golf Course in Naples, Fla., and a 33-under total. 

Ironically, the birdie barrage began after a bogey. 

After the dropped shot, on the 225-yard, par-3 3rd, Na birdied: the 600-yard, par-5 6th on an 8-foot putt; the 396-yard, par-4 7th on a 10-foot putt; the 175-yard, par-3 8th; the 480-yard, par-4 9th on a chip-in from the left side of the green; the 365-yard, par-4 10th on a 7-foot putt; the 430-yard, par-4 11th on an 8-foot putt; and the 215-yard, par-3 12th on a 6-foot putt. 

From there, and now leading by one shot, Kokrak took over. As he said he would. 

On the 350-yard, par-4 13th, he rolled in an 8-footer for birdie. On the 578-yard, par-5 14th, he made a 2-footer for birdie. On the 205-yard, par-3 16th, he nearly aced the hole and tapped in for birdie. On the 559-yard, par-5 17th, he dropped a 3-footer for birdie. 

Finally, on the 485-yard, par-4 18th, he rolled in a 6-footer for his fifth birdie of the back nine and a two-stroke lead with only two groups to play. When neither Horschel, Burns, Kuchar nor English holed out, it was over. 

But golf is not for 2021. If you like team events, there’s another one next week — the parent-child PNC Championship — to close out the pro schedule for the year. And a 15-time major champion and his 12-year-old son are playing. 

The big takeaway 

Keep an eye on Kokrak next year. That’s now four victories since last October, after a long winless stretch. Something has clicked. 

The big shots 

— Jason Day and Marc Leishman begin the day with a three-shot lead over the teams of Billy Horschel and Sam Burns, Matt Kuchar and Harris English, and Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak. Day and Leishman are at 24-under to begin the four-ball format. 

— Day and Leishman birdie the 440-yard, par-4 2nd hole. They are at 25-under, and Kuchar-English, Na-Kokrak and Horschel-Burns are at 22-under. 

— Day birdies the 428-yard, par-4 4th on a 15-foot birdie putt, and he and Leishman take a four-shot lead. They are at 25-under, and Will Zalatoris-Sean O’Hair, Graeme McDowell-Corey Conners, Horschel-Burns and Kuchar-English are at 22-under. 

— Na chips in from left of the green for birdie on the 480-yard, par-4 9th, and he and Kokrak move to one shot back of Day-Leishman after their fourth straight birdie. Day-Leishman are at 26-under, Na-Kokrak are at 25-under, and McDowell-Conners and Kuchar-English are at 24-under.   

— Na rolls in a 7-footer for birdie on the 365-yard, par-4 10th, and he and Kokrak move into a tie for the lead with Day-Leishman after their fifth birdie in a row. Na-Kokrak and Leishman-Day are at 26-under, McDowell-Conners and Kuchar-English are at 25-under, and Horschel-Burns are at 24-under. 

— Day drops a 10-footer for birdie on the 9th, and Day-Leishman move back into the lead. They are at 27-under, Na-Kokrak are at 26-under, McDowell-Conners and Kuchar-English are at 25-under, and Horschel-Burns are at 24-under. 

— Na rolls in an 8-footer on the 430-yard, par-4 11th, and he and Kokrak move back into a share of the lead with Day-Leishman after their sixth birdie in a row. Na-Kokrak and Day-Leishman are at 27-under, McDowell-Conners and Kuchar-English are at 25-under, and Horschel-Burns are at 24-under.

— Na drops a 6-footer for birdie on the 215-yard, par-3 12th — his seventh birdie in a row — and he and Kokrak take a one-shot lead. They are at 28-under, Day-Leishman are at 27-under, McDowell-Conners and Horschel-Burns are at 26-under and Kuchar-English are at 25-under. 

— Kokrak rolls in an 8-footer for birdie on the 350-yard, par-4 13th — their team’s eighth birdie in a row — and he and Na take a two-shot lead. They are at 29-under, Day-Leishman are at 27-under, McDowell-Conners and Horschel-Burns are at 26-under and Max Homa-Kevin Kisner and Kuchar-English are at 25-under. 

— Day taps in for birdie on the 13th, and he and Leishman move to within a stroke of Na-Kokrak. Na-Kokrak are at 29-under, Leishman-Day and Horschel-Burns are at 28-under, McDowell-Conners are at 27-under, and Kisner-Homa and English-Kuchar are at 26-under. 

— Kokrak sinks a 2-footer for birdie on the 578-yard, par-5 14th — their team’s ninth birdie in a row — and he and Na retake a two-shot lead. They are at 30-under, Day-Leishman and Horschel-Burns are at 28-under, and McDowell-Conners, Kisner-Homa and English-Kuchar are at 27-under. 

— Leishman-Day and Horschel-Burns each birdie the 14th, and they move to within a stroke of Na-Kokrak. Na-Kokrak are at 30-under, Leishman-Day and Horschel-Burns are at 29-under, Kisner-Homa are at 28-under and McDowell-Conners and Kuchar-English are at 27-under. 

— Kokrak taps in for birdie after nearly acing the 205-yard, par-3 16th — their team’s 10th birdie in 11 holes — and he and Na retake a two-shot lead. They are at 31-under, Leishman-Day, Horschel-Burns and Kuchar-English are at 29-under, Kisner-Homa are at 28-under and McDowell-Conners are at 27-under.

— Horschel birdies the 16th on a 25-foot putt, and he and Burns move to within a stroke of Na-Kokrak. Na-Kokrak are at 31-under, Horschel-Burns are at 30-under, Leishman-Day and Kuchar-English are at 29-under, Kisner-Homa are at 28-under and McDowell-Conners are at 27-under. 

— English eagles the 559-yard, par-5 17th on a 12-foot putt, and he and Kuchar move into a share of the lead. Kuchar-English and Na-Kokrak are at 31-under, Horschel-Burns are at 30-under, Leishman-Day are at 29-under, Kisner-Homa are at 28-under and McDowell-Conners are at 27-under. 

— Kokrak birdies the 17th on a 3-foot putt — their team’s 11th birdie in 12 holes — and he and Na retake a one-shot lead. They are at 32-under, Kuchar-English are at 31-under, Horschel-Burns are at 30-under, Leishman-Day are at 29-under, and Kisner-Homa and McDowell-Conners are at 28-under.

— Leishman eagles the 17th on a 6-foot putt, and he and Day move to within a shot of the lead. Na-Kokrak are at 32-under, and Horschel-Burns, Kuchar-English and Leishman-Day are at 31-under. 

— Kokrak rolls in a 6-foot birdie on the 485-yard, par-4 18th — their team’s 12th birdie in 13 holes — and he and Na retake a two-shot lead. Kokrak-Na are at 33-under, and Horschel-Burns, Kuchar-English and Leishman-Day are at 31-under. 

— Horschel-Burns and Leishman-Day fail to hole-out for eagle after drives in the fairway on the 18th, and Na-Kokrak clinch the victory.   

The final word 

“I started making some birdies, and we got hot. I looked over and I said, hey, man, when are you going to show up? He said, I’ll be there on the back nine when you really need me. And he did.” — Na on NBC  

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