Planet Golf — 28 May 2021 by GW staff and news services
Kokrak overcomes Spieth to win Schwab

FORT WORTH, Texas — Jason Kokrak played in 233 PGA Tour events before getting his first victory. The big hitter didn’t have to wait nearly as long to win again, though this one may have been harder because he had to overcome a local favorite at Colonial.

Kokrak shot an even-par 70 in a final-group showdown Sunday with resurgent Jordan Spieth, winning the Charles Schwab Challenge at 14-under 266. He was two strokes better than Spieth, who hit his approach from the rough at No. 18 over the green and into the water.

“You stay in the moment and it’s a golf course. You’re playing the golf course, you’re playing yourself. You’re not really playing Jordan,” Kokrak said. “But for where we got to in comparison to some of the other players, I knew it was going to be a boxing match and see who was going to come out on top.”

There were five bogeys and five birdies for Kokrak, who twice needed two shots to get out of bunkers. There were also back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 15 and 16 before a key par-saving 7-foot putt after his approach missed the 17th green.

But when he struck his round-ending 4-footer, he followed the ball to the cup and finally broke into a smile when celebrating with caddie David Robinson.

A huge crowd followed the only contending group all day, most of them waiting to erupt for Dallas-native Spieth, who began the round with a one-stroke lead before a bogey-filled 73. Kokrak said he heard some negative comments and knew he “definitely was not the favorite,” but did have a high school buddy and a cousin’s friend supporting him on the course.

“Naturally, you’re going to pull for the hometown kid. I appreciate it. I appreciate the gamesmanship,” Kokrak said. “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, playing in his 16th tournament since winning the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in October, joined Bryson DeChambeau and Stewart Cink as the only players with two wins on the PGA Tour this season.

Spieth, the 2016 winner at Colonial, was a runner-up there for the third time after leading each of the first three rounds.

“I didn’t play well at all, quite simply,” Spieth said. “I could have shot even par today and won the golf tournament, but from the very get-go, just a really bad start, and then tried to fight my way through it. I was just really off with my golf swing. I really lost it this weekend. You just have to be in control around Colonial.”

It was still his eighth top-10 finish in his last 11 starts this year, one more top 10 than he had the previous two seasons combined.

Along with the $1.35 million winner’s check and plaid jacket, Kokrak got a customized restored 1946 Schwab Power Wagon, a truck with 40-inch tires and a model date matching the first year of Colonial, the longest-running PGA event at the same venue.

“I’m a big guy with a big truck with a big jacket and a big paycheck. So I guess everything’s bigger in Texas, right,” he said.

Charley Hoffman had a closing 65 to finish in a four-way tie for third at 10 under. He also had a tournament-best 62 on Friday, but that was sandwiched by a pair of over-par rounds (71 on Thursday and 72 on Saturday). Patton Kizzire (67), Sebastian Munoz (68) and Ian Poulter (68) were also at 10-under 270. Troy Merritt was alone in seventh at 7 under.

Sergio Garcia was in third place at 10 under to start the final round, but the 41-year-old Spaniard, who got the first of his 11 PGA Tour wins 20 years ago at Colonial, bogeyed the opening par 5, then had had a three-putt for double bogey at No. 3. He shot a 76 and tied for 20th at 276.

Kokrak took the lead for good with birdies at the longest and shortest holes. He made a 13-foot putt at the 629-yard 11th, then a 17-footer off the fringe at the 170-yard 13th after a tee shot the came close to going into the water fronting the par 3.

Spieth only had two birdies, the last with an approach to less than 2 feet on No. 9 that matched them at 14 under going to the back nine.

After going into a greenside bunker at the 551-yard opening hole, Kokrak didn’t get the ball out of there on the first try and the bogey quickly put him two strokes behind.

But Spieth, who had only two bogeys in the first 55 holes, then bogeyed three holes in a row — and had two more on the back nine. He went in the right rough and then over the green on both Nos. 2 and 3, then hit into a bunker fronting the difficult 241-yard, par-3 fourth. He blasted to six feet, but his par attempt curled around the edge of the cup.

Kokrak led for the first time after a 23-foot birdie putt at the fifth, but his other bunker trouble came at No. 7, where he bogeyed while Spieth made par after a wayward tee shot hit a tree and ricocheted into the fairway.


FORT WORTH, Texas – The hill around Colonial’s 13th green is one of the popular gathering spots at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The grassy slope and a large grandstand form an amphitheater around the 159-yard par-3 that is guarded by water.

Jordan Spieth hit a pitching wedge to 10 feet there Saturday, setting off a loud cheer from the partisan patrons of Fort Worth. Some expressed their appreciation by standing and applauding as he walked the narrow path toward the putting surface.

He lifted his putter in the air after his birdie putt fell, eliciting another cheer. And he did it once more after retrieving his ball from the hole. Some chanted “JOR-DAN! JOR-DAN!” as he walked off the green. But after riling up the crowd, Spieth tried to quickly regain his focus. He stared at the ground just in front of his feet as he walked to the 14th tee, drowning out the noise around him.

That birdie gave him a two-shot lead over playing partner Jason Kokrak. Spieth played the final five holes in 2 under – including another crowd-pleasing birdie at 18 – but all that did was keep a charging Kokrak at bay. He birdied three of the final five holes to pull within one stroke of Spieth entering the final round.

Spieth and Kokrak made seven birdies and no bogeys on the back nine Saturday to separate themselves from the field. Spieth is at 15-under 195 (63-66-66), while Kokrak is 14 under par (65-65-66). The next-closest competitor is Sergio Garcia, who’s celebrating the 20th anniversary of his win here. He’s 10 under par. The two players tied for fourth – Ian Poulter and Sebastian Munoz – trail by seven.

Few courses fit Spieth better than this classic layout in Fort Worth. He won here in 2016 and has two runners-up. He’s finished outside the top 15 just once in eight appearances here.

The two players in the final group, Spieth and Kokrak, are each trying to become the third player to win multiple times this season, as well. Spieth is seeking a second title in Texas after winning last month’s Valero Texas Open to snap a winless streak that lasted nearly four years. Kokrak, 36, earned his first title in the CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK.

“I walked off the (13th) 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.”

Tickets to this year’s Charles Schwab Challenge include all-you-can-eat food and drink. The unlimited refreshments have undoubtedly added some enthusiasm to the crowds pulling for the kid who grew up next door in Dallas. Their cheers provide a stark contrast to last year’s Charles Schwab Challenge, which was the first event after the TOUR’s 91-day hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no fans on-site, though some watched from the streets that surround Colonial.

“What a difference a year makes,” Spieth said.

The same can be said about his game. He entered the final round of last year’s Charles Schwab Challenge in second place, just one shot off the lead. He was still in the midst of his winless drought and his swing changes struggled to hold up under pressure. He shot a final-round 71 to finish 10th. He finished 107th in last year’s FedExCup, the worst season of his career.

Spieth, who has seven top-10s this season, arrived at Colonial ranked ninth in the this season’s standings. The 2015 FedExCup champion could overtake the top spot with a win Sunday. 

Spieth’s ball-striking has been a strength this season. His rejuvenated iron play has been the key to his success this spring. He fought it a bit Saturday, though. He made his first bogey of the week at the fifth hole but rebounded with a birdie at the next. Another bogey at 8 was followed by a good par save at the ninth hole, where he wedged to 12 feet after punching out of the trees.

“That was rather big for me to make the turn at 1 under feeling like I had got away with a couple,” he said.

He shot a bogey-free 32 on the back nine but it was evident that he was trying to figure things out. He was rehearsing swings walking down the fairway and on the putting green and after hitting his shots. He would take the club to the top with a bent left elbow, then drop the shaft on his right shoulder to mimic the feel of “shallowing out” in the transition.


FORT WORTH, Texas — Jordan Spieth has started playing well again just about everywhere he goes. He has always felt comfortable close to home at Colonial, where he is in the lead.

PGA champion Phil Mickelson was headed home to California after he bogeyed two of his last three holes, missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Classic by one stroke.

Spieth was bogey-free again Friday, with a 4-under 66 to take the lead after the second round at 11-under 129 at Hogan’s Alley. The Dallas native was one shot ahead of Jason Kokrak, who had his second consecutive round of 65.

“I’m in a good spot at a familiar place,” Spieth said.

Mickelson, who turns 51 on June 16, became the oldest winner of a golf major at the PGA Championship last weekend. But Lefty finished 2 over at Colonial after his second-round 69, which included three birdies in a four-hole stretch to end his front nine.

But Mickelson’s 7-foot par chance at the par-3 16th rolled over the left edge and did a half-circle around the cup without going in. With the sun shining through the clouds, his have-to-make 10-footer on No. 18 slid just left of the hole.

Mickelson left the course almost immediately after that, telling a PGA Tour official on his way out that he enjoyed his time at the tournament. The two-time Colonial champion said he hated that he wouldn’t be around for the weekend.

Sergio Garcia (69), the first-round co-leader with Spieth whose first PGA Tour win came at Colonial 20 years ago, was tied for third at 8 under with Sebastian Munoz and Patton Kizzire, who both shot 65 Friday. Munoz had six birdies on the back nine, including the final three holes after a double bogey at No. 15.

Kokrak, Garcia and Munoz were in the morning wave of players who all finished before a weather delay of 2 hours and 26 minutes during the afternoon.

A steady drizzle started about the same time Spieth, Mickelson and defending champion Daniel Berger teed off at No. 1 to start their second round together. Mickelson had a bogey on the opening par-5.

The rain had pretty much stopped before play was suspended because of lightning nearby from a weather system producing heavy storms south of the course. At that point, Mickelson was in a greenside bunker at No. 3, with Spieth 23 feet from the cup on the same hole.

Mickelson’s first shot when play resumed nearly 2 1/2 hours later was a blast to set up a par-saving 7-foot putt. Spieth rolled in his second consecutive birdie.

“I came out of the rain delay and I made a nice putt on 3, and really felt like I had a chance to birdie almost every hole on that front nine and even into the back nine,” Spieth said. “But I didn’t swing it as well. I wasn’t really completing it and it wasn’t feeling great. I knew I was going to kind of have to manage my way around the golf course a little bit, and fortunately did a really great job of that.”

Spieth is playing in his 11th tournament since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January. His seven top-10 finishes since then match his total in 40 events the previous two seasons combined. He won the Valero Texas Open, his first victory since the 2017 British Open. He won in 2016 at Colonial, where he has two runner-up finishes and three others in the top 10.

Kokrak still hits the ball a long way, and now has a long putter when on the greens. The 35th-ranked player in the world, who is 6-foot-4 and has made the FedEx Cup playoff the past eight seasons, switched to a putter with a 36-inch shaft this season..

“I was 190th in putting but I was a top five ball-striker, so I concentrated more on the putter as of late, and you know, it’s been hot,” he said. “But you know, I still want to concentrate on the ball-striking. I’ve been struggling with the driver, so I think finding a driver this week that I’m comfortable with, it’s gone a long way.”

His best back-to-back rounds this year, with six birdies and a bogey in each round, are on the Colonial course where he had his best finish last season. He tied for third last June in the Charles Schwab Challenge that marked the PGA Tour’s resumption of competition after a 12-week pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the 36-year-old Kokrak got his first career victory in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas in October.

The low round of the day was a season-best 62 by Charlie Hoffman, who overcame an early bogey at No. 3, when his approach missed the green after a drive into the rough. He had four consecutive birdies, at Nos. 14-17, before a par-saver with a chip to 2 feet at No. 18.

Hoffman, who had an opening 71, was tied for sixth at 7-under 133.

FORT WORTH, Texas – Few could find fault with Jordan Spieth’s putting stroke, but the former FedExCup champion said a “somewhat significant” change was needed before this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.

It worked. Spieth was impeccable with the putter en route to a bogey-free 63 that gave him a two-shot lead after Thursday’s morning wave at Colonial Country Club.

“I just needed to do a bit of adjustment in my stroke feel on some bad tendencies I got into,” Spieth said. “Cameron (McCormick, Spieth’s instructor) … was able to really pinpoint a way to get a stroke feel that left me just a little more comfortable over it.”

A lack of confidence was causing Spieth to leave putts about a foot short of his target. Spieth finished 30th in last week’s PGA Championship despite ranking 69th in Strokes Gained: Putting (-0.55) among the 81 players who made the cut. He’s 48th in that statistic this season.

He gained more than 4 strokes on the greens Thursday, missing just one of the 18 putts he faced from inside 20 feet. He was 3 for 3 from 5-10 feet, missed just one of the four putts he faced from 10-15 feet and made a 19-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.

He started the day with a 12-foot birdie putt on his opening hole, the par-4 10th. He added birdies at 12 and 17 to shoot 32 on the front nine. Another birdied at No. 2 got him to 4 under before he birdied his final three holes, including a chip-in on the par-3 eighth hole.

Spieth, who recently ended a winless drought of nearly four years, is now seeking his second win in his home state in less than two months. His victory in last month’s Valero Texas Open was his first PGA TOUR win since the 2017 Open Championship. He’s ninth in this season’s FedExCup standings thanks to seven top-10s in his last 10 starts.

And now he brings his good form into Colonial, one of the courses where he feels most comfortable. He won here in 2016, one of six top-10s in eight starts. 

“Colonial, it’s Hogan’s Alley,” he said. “Fit it into tight windows, trying to hit fairways, and control the ball on the green. I’ve putted these greens historically very well, that’s No. 1. I’ve had a knack for reading and dialing in the speed out here.”

The familiar bentgrass putting surfaces of Colonial Country Club can seemingly fix anything that may ail Spieth’s putting stroke. He showed it Thursday.

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