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.
Adam Hadwin was the top-ranked Canadian in eighth place. Hadwin, from Abbotsford, B.C., finished 6 under 274 after an even-par 70 in the final round.
Corey Conners’ 71 on Sunday put the Listowel, Ont., golfer in a tie for 20th. Nick Taylor of Abbotsford was seven strokes behind Conners in 62nd with a 3-over 283.
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.