In his 10th season and 233rd tournament, Jason Kokrak can finally call himself a PGA Tour winner.
Kokrak earned every bit of it on Sunday in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.
He matched the best round of the tournament with an eight-under 64 to overcome a three-shot deficit at the start and win a duel on the back nine with Xander Schauffele.
"Couldn't be happier," said Kokrak, whose 20-under 268 total was better than Schauffele's by two.
The timing couldn't be better. The CJ Cup moved from South Korea this year to Shadow Creek because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kokrak is an ambassador for MGM Resorts, which owns the prestigious Tom Fazio design.
"It feels like home," Kokrak said. "I've played this golf course enough that I should know it by now."
Kokrak began to pull away with four straight birdies on the front nine, and birdie putts from 20 feet and 18 feet to start the back nine stretched his lead to two shots.
Schauffele answered with three straight birdies, the last one a 45-footer by using his putter from the thick collar of the 13th green to catch him. Then, it was a matter of who blinked first.
That turned out to be Schauffele on the par-5 16th, when he only managed to advance his shot from deep rough left of the fairway some 85 yards into more rough.
Swinging with all his might, his third shot peeled off to the right into more rough well below the green, and he made his only bogey in his round of 66.
“It feels like home. I've played this golf course enough that I should know it by now.” – Jason Kokrak
Kokrak also was in the left rough, hacked out to the right rough and put his third shot in the bunker. But he splashed it out to just inside four feet and made par for a one-shot lead, and Schauffele couldn't catch up.
Kokrak, a 35-year-old from Ohio, all but clinched it when he drilled his drive into the fairway on the par-5 18th, leaving only a short iron to 25 feet. He two-putted for his final birdie of a round he won't soon forget.
Russell Henley, who began the final round with a three-shot lead, never got anything going early and fell behind when he bogeyed the par-5 7th and Kokrak was on his early run of birdies.
He closed with a 70 and tied for third with Tyrrell Hatton, who was coming off a victory last week in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Hatton closed with a 65.
Making it even tougher on Kokrak and Schauffele was Australian Jason Day, the third in their group who withdrew with a neck injury on the second hole.
That meant a twosome amidst a course filled with threesomes, and a lot of waiting. They still played at the highest level, with Kokrak delivering all the key putts.
Queenslander Cameron Smith finished 11th, his fourth-round 68 giving him a nine-under total of 279 – 11 shots behind Kokrak.
Marc Leishman had a disappointing 75 to finish one-over for the tournament in a tie for 52nd.
- Doug Ferguson, Australian Associated Press