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Jason Kokrak let it be known heading into Sunday at the Charles Schwab Challenge that he welcomed the chance to play spoiler to hometown favorite, past champion and 54-hole leader Jordan Spieth. Then he seized the opportunity, grinding out an even-par, final-round 70 at Colonial Country Club to secure a two-stroke victory for his second career title.

The win marked the 36-year-old Kokrak’s second win in his last 17 starts and made him the third multiple winner this season along with Bryson DeChambeau and Stewart Cink. Kokrak won his first career title in October at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in his 233rd start.

“It feels really good to solidify that I’m not just a one-time winner on the PGA Tour,” he said. “Definitely is nice to get the second win, especially at an historic place like Colonial Country Club. Feels great. Looking forward to what’s in store for the future, and you know, all I can do, and I tell everybody all I try to do is to get better every single year. It’s not a flash in the pan.”

The Ohio native, who finished at 14-under 266, inserted himself into the conversation early with an opening-round 65, two off the pace of 18-hole leaders Spieth and Sergio Garcia. He cemented his place there after another 65 on Friday and a 66 on Saturday kept him in solo second both days and just one stroke behind Spieth.

It was in this relentless pursuit to stay hot on Spieth’s heels that Kokrak slowly began to reveal in his post-round interviews the recent changes and concentrated efforts that made this seemingly surprising second win a not-so-unexpected development.

On Thursday, Kokrak noted that he recently switched drivers to “an older setup” that he used to win last year. Then Friday, the 6-foot-4 golfer told a story about his putter: “About two years ago, my caddie … saw that I was holding the putter kind of in the base of my palm here, both hands weren’t completely on the putter. He said, ‘Don’t change anything, just go to a 36-inch putter,’ and that’s made all the difference. I’m able to stand up a little bit taller and more comfortable and it’s working.”

But also, taking note that at one point he was ranked 190th in putting but top five in ball-striking, he’s spent more time with the flat stick, and it’s paid off.

This all translated to some impressive numbers on the stat pages, too: He led the field in birdies (23), Strokes Gained: Total (14.857), SG: Off-the-Tee (6.166) and Driving Distance (321.8), he ranked second in SG: Tee-to-Green (9.356) and GIR (54/72, 75 percent). He finished seventh in SG: Putting (5.501).

Credit also went to his partnership with caddie David Robinson. “I’ve got to hand it to the Admiral,” said Kokrak. “Ever since we got together four years ago, I called him up and said, ‘Listen, this is going a good ride. I’m a pretty good ball-striker, and you’re a great green reader and we’ll make a good duo.’”

Kokrak also capitalized on his comfort level at Colonial. In six previous starts, he’s made the cut four times with his best result coming in 2020 when he finished T-3.

“I tend to like tougher golf courses and I know it’s soft this week, … but I’m comfortable here,” he said earlier in the week. “Food’s been great. People have always treated me nice. Always rented a house close by. I’ve just got good vibes for this golf course. You know, the putter the last two years has served me well, and I seem to read these greens pretty well.”

It was a different story for 27-year-old Spieth, who took a “no excuses” approach to his assessment of Sunday’s 3-over 73, which included three straight bogeys on Nos. 2-4 and a disastrous 18th where he caught a flier out of the right rough that sailed into the water when he trailed Kokrak by a shot.

“I didn’t play well at all quite simply,” he 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, but I was just really off with my golf swing. I really lost it this weekend. You just have to be in control around Colonial.”

The 2016 champion, seeking his 13th career title and second of the season, could not capitalize on the comfort or confidence he had the first three rounds, when he opened with bogey-free rounds of 63-66. After shooting 66 on Saturday to equal his low 54-hole score on the Tour (15-under 195), Spieth held the third-round lead or co-lead for the 20th time in his career and fourth time this season but dropped his conversion record to 10-for-20.

T-3 never felt so good

While the weekend at Colonial turned into mostly a two-man event, some noteworthy performances by Charley Hoffman, Patton Kizzire, Sebastian Munoz and Ian Poulter lit up the leaderboard in a mini competition for third place at 10 under.

Hoffman earned his second top-five finish in Texas this season and drew attention with a second-round, 8-under 62 that fell just one stroke shy of tying the course record but moved him up more than 50 spots on the leaderboard after a first-round 71. After a 72 on Saturday, he rebounded with a six-birdie, one-bogey 65 on Sunday.

Kizzire shot 67-65-71-67 to record a second consecutive T-3 finish following a T-3 at the Byron Nelson, while world No. 66 Poulter Ian Poulter (68-70-64-68) made 14 straight pars Sunday before making birdie on three of his last four holes to claim his 51st top-10 finish on Tour and third in eight starts at Colonial. Munoz, who missed the cut in 2020 in his first Charles Schwab Challenge appearance, closed with a 2-under 68 to claim his third top-10 finish of the season.

Phil’s fast exit, other notable misses

PGA champion Phil Mickelson made bogey on two of his last three holes and missed the cut by a shot after shooting 73-69.

“You can’t play this course out of the rough because then you have tree trouble, which I had repeatedly, and I didn’t putt well,” he said. “But I won the PGA, so …”

Mickelson admitted he couldn’t find “the same kind of calm” that he had at Kiawah Island, but noted he would be taking the next two weeks off in preparation for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in his hometown of San Diego.

Also making an early exit at Colonial was world No. 8 Patrick Reed (68-74), who bogeyed his final hole on Friday to miss the cut by one, and sponsor exemption Michael Visacki (77-72), the Monday qualifier who went viral at the Valspar Championship.

Compton brings the feels, Piercy’s rough week gets worse

A bogey-free 65 on Thursday put two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton into the mix, just two strokes behind first-round leaders Spieth and Sergio Garcia. Playing on a sponsor’s exemption in what was just his third PGA Tour start since 2016, Compton made five birdies en route to his lowest score on the PGA Tour since a 62 in the first round of the Wyndham Championship in 2015. He shot 68-70-73 to finish T-20.

“I mean, it’s hard to sum it up, but it’s a lot of work, and I’m a fighter, I’m a grinder,” said Compton, who noted he recently celebrated the 29th anniversary of his combined transplants. “I put one foot in front of the other. I’m just blessed to be alive really. Spent most of my life with somebody else’s hearts. It’s a challenge, but I do the best that I can. …

“To be honest it’s really neat to see all the best players in the world again. As an older guy on the Korn Ferry Tour, I really don’t know a lot of the players, and out here it’s nice to see a lot of old friends and people asking me about my health and my family. My dream is to be back here and playing full-time again, make another run.”

Scott Piercy’s week made a run in the opposite direction when he became the third player in the last five tournaments to sign an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified. It was also the third career DQ for the 42-year-old in 324 events and second at this event (2009 debut). He shot 72-72 and would have missed the cut anyway, but adding insult to injury was the fact that he started the week on a disappointing note when he narrowly missed out in U.S. Open qualifying at Dallas Athletic Club.

Piercy snapped his putter over his knee after reportedly missing a short birdie putt to win a 10-way playoff for the final available ticket to Torrey Pines and then missing another short putt to secure the alternate position. Ouch.

Next up: Memorial Tournament

World No. 3 Jon Rahm is set to defend his Memorial title next week at a renovated Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, where he looks to become the first man to win back-to-back titles since Tiger Woods in 2001 (which was actually Woods’ third consecutive title).

“The House That Jack Built” hosted two consecutive Tour events in 2020 prior to the overhaul, which started during the final round of last year’s event as turf was being lifted while the leaders were on the back nine. The renovation includes reconstruction of the greens, the addition of more than 140 trees and resurfaced tee boxes, and the course can also play up to 100 yards longer now.

FedExCup leader and 2018 winner Bryson DeChambeau will tee it up along with World No. 2 Justin Thomas, No. 5 Collin Morikawa, No. 6 Xander Schauffele, Reed, No. 9 Rory McIlroy and past champions Patrick Cantlay, Jason Dufner and William McGirt. Sponsor exemptions include Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, who recently finished fourth at the PGA Championship, and major champions Vijay Singh and Danny Willett.

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