Jason Kokrak crashes Texas party, tops Jordan Spieth at Charles Schwab Challenge

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FORT WORTH, Texas — After a lengthy break caused by the pandemic, the Charles Schwab Challenge marked golf’s return in 2020, but without fans, the vibe was predictably subdued.

This year, those who attended the 75th anniversary of this event were looking to let a year of pent-up emotions loose in celebration of native son Jordan Spieth, who grew up less than an hour from Colonial Country Club.

The story was all but written on Saturday — Spieth held a one-stroke edge after 54 holes and, aside from one single competitor, it looked like he couldn’t be caught.

But somebody forgot to hand Jason Kokrak the script.

The jovial Ohioan got a little riled early, but then bounced back and put on an impressive display of big drives, solid putting and resilience, grabbing his second PGA Tour title by finishing at 14 under for the four-round event. Spieth was second at 12 under.

Kokrak — a Xavier University product who calls the Cleveland suburb of Hudson, Ohio, his hometown — took the lead on the front nine while Spieth struggled through the three-hole Horrible Horseshoe, a tricky area that circles the driving range. Spieth made bogey on two of three while Kokrak dropped a curling 23-foot putt on No. 5 to jump in front.

But it looked like the wheels might fall off for Kokrak on No. 7, when he needed two tries to get out of a greenside bunker, then angrily heaved his ball into nearby trees — perhaps sensing he’d missed an opportunity while Spieth was misfiring.

Instead, Kokrak settled down, got back on top with a birdie on No. 11 — one of only two par 5s at Colonial — and watched as Spieth made par.

Kokrak posted bogeys on both Nos. 15 and 16, giving Spieth life as the lead was cut to one, but he made a huge 7-foot putt on No. 17 to maintain the lead. On 18, Spieth found the water with his second shot, taking the pressure off the two-time Ohio Amateur champion, who two-putted his way to victory.

Kokrak has been better than ever on the greens since caddie David Robinson suggested a move to a longer putter, one with a 36-inch shaft, and the results have been astounding. He picked up his first PGA Tour win last October at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas and has only continued to gain steam, earning five top-25 finishes in his last eight starts before coming to Colonial.

Kokrak, who uses a Bettinardi putter, spent some time at the company’s Illinois camp and has seen dramatic results — he’s jumped to seventh on the Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting this season. He was 10th in the field in that stat this week to go with No. 1 in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee.

Meanwhile, despite falling, Spieth is still enjoying a renaissance of sorts. During a stretch of four Texas PGA Tour events in nine weeks, Spieth has all top-10 finishes — including a victory at the Valero Texas Open.