Jason Kokrak rebounded from a double bogey on his eighth hole on Friday. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas – Jason Kokrak couldn’t resist.
He’d been playing. Everyone else had been Dufnering. So before he met the media Friday afternoon, he plopped down on the riser and posed for a few tweet-able moments.
That done, he was all smiles. He wasn’t sure at the time if he’d be playing with Steve Wheatcroft or D.A. Points. Both are buddies. Either would be a perfect partner for the start of a weekend run.
Especially Wheatcroft. And he got it.
Kokrak and Wheatcroft will be last off Saturday afternoon as the Shell Houston Open rolls into the final 36 holes with Wheatcroft leading at 10 under and Kokrak and Points tied, one shot back.
“I congratulated (Wheatcroft) on getting into the Monday qualifier,’’ Kokrak said. “ Played well yesterday late in the round, so, you know, I'm happy for him. I'm happy he's doing well. Hopefully I can go out there and overtake the lead or -- hopefully I overtake him late Sunday, but hopefully go out there and have a lot of fun.’’
A win would get either one of them into the Masters in a few weeks, but Kokrak said it’s not really on his mind.
“I don't think it's really on my mind too much,’’ said Kokrak, who backed up an opening 66 with a second-round 69. “Been struggling the last couple of weeks, so it hasn't -- I haven't really been thinking about it, but it's one of the bonuses of winning out here.
“But, you know, it might creep into my mind a little bit, but for right now, there's so much golf to be played that I'm going to concentrate on my own game tomorrow.”
Kokrak’s lone hiccup Friday was a double-bogey at the 17th hole.
“Other than that, I started hitting stride on the back,’’ he said. “Hitting solid shots, hitting it in the fairways and hitting really good tee balls. Putting myself in good positions is key for this golf course. There's a lot of water out there, lot of wind. So hitting it solid, there's something to be said about it.’’
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Save for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, it's been a rough year for Jason Kokrak.
In his seven other starts, Kokrak has four missed cuts, a WD and hasn't finished inside the top 70.
"I think I was just putting a lot of pressure on myself, going out there and thinking about the cut line, thinking about different things," he said.
Thursday in Houston, however, the 27-year-old shot a 6-under 66 to sit near the top of the leaderboard.
So what sparked his lowest round since a final-round 65 at PGA West back in January?
For one, Kokrak figured out a couple of weeks ago he was taking the club back shut. For another, he had a comfortable pairing in Brian Harman and David Lingmerth -- two guys he knows well.
"The golf course sets up well for me," Kokrak continued. "It's a long enough golf course, the greens are firm enough where I can take advantage because I'm hitting a lot shorter irons into the holes.
"It's easy for me to spin it and hold it in position where I wanted it to."
And now he's in a better position on the leaderboard, too.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Don't look now but Robert Garrigus is cllmbing the leaderboard at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Garrigus, you might remember, tied for second at last year's tournament in the desert -- one of four runner-up finishes he had in PGA TOUR events last year. He also tied for second in Malaysia.
Garrigus, who is making his 2013 debut at the Humana Challange, started on the back nine at La Quinta on Friday and has gone birdie-eagle-birdie to move to 10 under. He's tied with overnight co-leader, Jason Kokrak, and the two are one shot off the lead.
Roberto Castro and James Hahn, who were the other two first-round pacesetters, have played five and four holes, respectively, and are both 2 under for the day and 11 under for the tournament. Castro is playing the Palmer Course at PGA West while Hahn is at La Quinta.
Russell Henley, last week's stunning rookie winner at the Sony Open in Hawaii, continues to play well. He's 1 under through four holes at the Palmer Course and tied with Ryan Palmer and Greg Chalmers at 9 under.
Phil Mickelson, who struggled with his putter and shot even par on Thursday, is giving himself a shot at playing the entire weekend. He's on the Nicklaus Course and has birdied four of his first seven holes to move to 4 under, which is currently tied for 62nd. The cut will be made on Saturday after everyone has played each of the three courses in the rotation.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Jason Kokrak hasn't met a par 5 he didn't like. Not when he's averaging well over 300 yards off the tee and can overpower even the longest of the long.
Kokrak, who clocked in at 309 yards off the tee last week in Hawaii, doesn't think there's a par 5 on any of the three courses in the rotation at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation that he can't reach -- unless, of course, the wind is up. Not that it's always in his best interest to go for it in two, of course.
The 569-yard 14th on the Palmer Course, for example, brings a little too much risk into the equation.
"It's really not worth it to go for it," Kokrak said. "But I had about 260 to the middle of the green in the practice round, so I could have gone for it, but it was really not worth it for that green. You miss it left, you're in the water. You miss it right, you're in the rocks. So put yourself in a good position with a wedge and try to make birdie the old-fashioned way."
Kokrak made two eagles and five birdies at La Quinta on Thursday on the way to a 63 that left him tied for the lead with Robert Castro and James Hahn. Big hiters haven't always prospered in the Humana Challenge but Kokrak has learned a more cerebral approach can be as useful as his power.
"I think that it's just more of a game plan for each individual course," Kokrak said. "I don't think it's a bomber's golf course by any means. You got to hit fairways, but a lot of the holes that are right around 400 yards I can just put a 3-iron out in the fairway, 250 260 out there and it leaves me a wedge at most, a 9-iron into the green.
"So you can still be aggressive with those clubs. So take advantage of the par 5s if you can and put yourself in good positions on the par 4s and make pars on the par 3s and you're going to have a good round."
Roberto Castro, Jason Kokrak and James Hahn
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The youth movement continued on Thursday during the opening round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation as one PGA TOUR rookie and two in their sophomore seasons claimed shares of the lead at 9 under.
James Hahn, who is playing in just his third TOUR event, fired his 63 on the Palmer Course at PGA West, which is generally considered the most challenging of the three courses used in the rotation. Roberto Castro's came on the Nicklaus course while Jason Kokrak shot 9 under at La Quinta.
Russell Henley, the rookie who won last week's Sony Open in Hawaii, showed no signs of slowing down, either, as he heads a group of four players at 8 under. He's tied with Greg Chalmers, Doug Labelle and Aaron Baddeley, who finished birdie-eagle on the Palmer course.
"I'm feeling very confident," said Henley, who set the tone when he hit the pin for eagle on the first hole. "I definitely wasn't going to be upset either way. I feel like of how my score went, I think that's the last thing I want to do is waste any energy and be emotional right now. I think I got to conserve all my emotions and my energy as much as I can so I can play another full golf tournament."
Henley's fellow rookie, Hahn, blistered the front nine of the Palmer Course with a 30 on the way to his 63. He chipped in twice for birdies -- the first time he'd holed two like that since he was 9 years old.
"For me it was just fairways, greens, and then trying to make a putt," Hahn said. "I think a lot of the times, we as professionals, try to take in too much information. That's not necessary, what it is to the water on the left or how far to carry this particular tree, and for me some of my best rounds have come from not even seeing golf course for the first time.
"So for me it's a little bit of an advantage, it gives me tunnel vision, I don't want to know or I don't have the information of how far the trouble is, I just know fairway, green, and try and make a putt."
Kokrak, who averaged 304 yards off the tee last season, played the par 5s at La Quinta in 4 under on the strength of two eagles. He birdied his first hole and then eagled his second to get things going and didn't drop a shot to par.
"The course over at La Quinta is in great shape," Kokrak said. "Greens are not overly fast, so you can be somewhat aggressive out there. The greens are holding. So you can be aggressive with the iron shots out there."
Castro and the other pro in his group, Daniel Summerhays, fed off each other in the first round. Summerhays is among a group of nine players who are tied at 65, two strokes off the pace.
"I got off to a good start, I birdied the first two with kick-ins, basically," Castro said. "And then just played well after that. Didn't make any long putts until the 18th hole I rolled in like a 40, 50 footer. .. So this tournament you kind of got to get it going and keep it going. We both got it going early, which was good."
Thursday was a perfect day for scoring in the desert and all but 22 of the 156 players in the field broke par. Among those with ground to make up are reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who opened with a 73; former PGA champ David Toms, who had a 75; and and defending champion Mark Wilson, who shot 77.
Two-time Humana champ Phil Mickelson shot even par 72 at La Quinta in his 2013 debut.
All three courses played well under par 72 with the Nicklaus course the easiest at 68.231. The Palmer course clocked in at 69.712 while La Quinta was 69.769.
Jason Kokrak jumped inside the top 125 with a T2 at Frys.com. He played a new Titleist Pro V1x.Laberge/Getty Images
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Jason Kokrak is one of the PGA TOUR’s big bombers (11th in driving distance) but had virtually nothing to show for it this year – until the Frys.com Open.
Kokrak finished T2 at CordeValle, getting a crucial big payday with just two events left on the schedule to crack the top 125 in money. The rookie came into the week at 167th on the money list but left 117th, a livelihood-saving week. He had only one finish higher than T34 in 24 previous starts in 2012.
How did he do it? As usual, Kokrak was near the top in driving distance (ninth) but also led the field in greens in regulation and was eighth in strokes-gained putting, all with the new Titleist Pro V1x prototype. The Frys.com Open marked the second week in which the new Pro V1s were available for TOUR pros.
The Pro V1x offers lower spin than the Pro V1 and is preferred by most pros seeking more distance while not sacrificing control around the greens.
HOT ODYSSEY: The Odyssey ProType ix No. 1 is the company’s most popular putter among TOUR players, after just two weeks in players’ hands.
“Players are using the interchangeable weights to match a specific swing weight and to create a specific toe swing feel,” Odyssey rep Johnny Thompson said. “Players are asking for blank No. 1s so they can have their particular sight line -- sight dot, blank, topline, etc.”
Rookie Danny Lee finished a season-best T16 at Frys.com with the putter.
OLDIES: Remember the TaylorMade Bubble Shaft? The Great Big Bertha? The first Top-Flite solid-core surlyn ball? (OK, we won’t ask your age for that one.) Check out this fun list from Golf Digest about memorable equipment launches.
The time is nearing when equipment companies start to roll out new products – or at least new product hype. TaylorMade, to name one, has been touting a new release next Tuesday. Promotional materials say it is supposed to make Sergio Garcia “freakishly longer.” (Irons, perhaps?)
Are any highly touted products of yesterday still in your bag? Tell us in the comments below.
WINNER’S BAG: Jonas Blixt at the Frys.com
Driver: Cobra ZL Encore(8.5 degrees)
Fairway wood: TaylorMade RocketBallz (15 degrees)
Hybrid: Cobra Baffler T-Rail (18 degrees)
Irons: Cobra S3 Pro MB (3-PW)
Wedges: Callaway X-Forged (52, 60 degrees)
Putter: Yes! C Groove Donna II
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x