COMCAST BUSINESS TOP 10
Jason Kokrak surprises with third win in 13 monthsWas nine off the pace halfway through at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
November 15, 2021
By Jeff Eisenband, PGATOUR.COM
- November 15, 2021
Jason Kokrak earns third PGA TOUR title at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open featured a little bit of everything atop the leaderboard. The highest-ranked player in the world on the PGA TOUR without a win (Scottie Scheffler), a revitalized young stud (Matthew Wolff) and a player who had missed 61 of his last 70 cuts (Martin Trainer) all held the lead at some point.
The trophy went to Jason Kokrak, who has more wins in the last 13 months than anyone not named Patrick Cantlay.
1. Kokrak does it again
For nearly a decade, Jason Kokrak was known as a guy who came close, but just couldn’t convert a PGA TOUR victory.
Now he’s become a bona fide winner.
Kokrak started his Houston Open campaign red hot, getting to 7 under through 27 holes before a 6-over back nine in his second round, including a triple-bogey on 18, had him stumbling into the weekend.
He fought back with a 4-under 66 in his third round and then a 5-under 65 on Sunday, highlighted by four straight birdies on holes 13-16, to win by two over Scottie Scheffler and Kevin Tway. After accumulating zero wins In his first 233 TOUR starts, Kokrak now has three in his last 27. Not a bad turnaround.
“I guess you can call me an underdog, but the last couple years I've played some pretty solid golf, so I wouldn't exactly say that I'd be the underdog going in,” Kokrak said Sunday. “I guess this week I would be because my game was not in top form and I definitely made the best of it, made a lot of birdies, made a lot of nice putts.”
During the course of his three wins, over 13 months, his next-best finish is a T8. In other words, Kokrak is now winning when he gets in contention. A great starting pitcher for a decade, he has become a dominant closer, too.
2. Scheffler comes close (again)
Scottie Scheffler can relate to the old Jason Kokrak. In Scheffler’s TOUR career, he’s been about as good as one can be without a win. Following an opening-round 72, the Dallas resident and former Texas Longhorns star shot a course-record 62 in his second round at Memorial Park. A third-round 69 put him at 7 under, one ahead of five players headed into Sunday. He started his fourth round with a 2-under front nine to maintain the lead.
It didn’t last. Scheffler’s fate flipped on the back nine, with bogeys at 11 and 14 dropping him as many as four strokes behind Kokrak. Scheffler salvaged birdies on No. 16 and 18 to tie Tway for second place.
“I'll take from this I felt like I played a lot of good golf this week without really my best stuff,” Scheffler said. “I really felt uncomfortable with my ball-striking going into the week, but I gave myself a chance to win here in the end, I put myself in position on Sunday. I'd say today I just probably didn't make enough putts.”
In 67 TOUR starts, Scheffler now has two runner-up finishes, four top-3s and 17 top-10s. But the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year and standout on the 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup Team still has yet to break through for his first W.
3. Fall stars keep rolling
Several of the fall’s top players stayed hot.
After a three-week break, FedExCup leader Sam Burns picked up where he left off with a T7 finish. He shot 70, 67, 71 and 67, a solid week despite a double-bogey on 18. He has finished T14 or better in four events this fall.
Burns’ closest FedExCup chaser, Sungjae Im, himself returning from a rare three-week hiatus, also closed out the week with a 3-under 67, getting him to 2 under overall and a T19 finish. Im has posted T31 or better in his four events this fall.
Maverick McNealy, who opened the week at No. 9 in the FedExCup, posted a T19 and has four top-25 finishes in six starts this season. He stays in the FedExCup top 10 but drops a spot to 10th with Kokrak jumping him.
Oh, and Matthew Wolff had a chance to win this weekend, again. The top player in the FedExCup standings without a victory this season jumped from 8th to 6th place with a T11.
4. Wolff adds hole-in-one highlight to stellar fall
Shot of the Day
Matthew Wolff's incredible hole-in-one is the Shot of the Day
Matthew Wolff’s Red Hot Live Fall Tour continued as he opened 68-67-69 to go into Sunday one behind Scheffler. Seeking his second career win, Wolff hit the highest highs but also faltered slightly in the homestretch.
Playing in the final group with Scheffler and Jhonattan Vegas, Wolff made three bogeys and a birdie in his first eight holes. But just when it seemed this wouldn’t be his day, he aced the 9th hole, the roar of the crowd giving him the news.
Alas, three more bogeys and just one birdie added up to a 2-over 72 as he finished 4 under for the tournament and T11. His fall now consists of a T17, 2, T5 and T11. While Wolff’s name may not be etched on a trophy yet this season, that is an incredible run for a player who struggled for much of the previous year.
5. Trainer rekindles magic
In February 2019, in his ninth event as a TOUR member, Martin Trainer claimed his first victory at the Puerto Rico Open. A 27-year-old rookie at the time, Trainer opened up so many new doors in his golf career.
But in the last 33 months, that career has featured significantly more struggles than glory. In his 70 TOUR starts between the 2019 Puerto Rico Open and the 2021 Houston Open, he missed 61 cuts. His best result was a 34th place at the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions, which happened to be a 34-player, no-cut event.
Trainer was ranked 128th in the world after the 2019 Puerto Rico Open. He came to Houston as No. 1,310.
But sometimes golf makes no sense, because there he was opening with a pair of 65s at Memorial Park. Not only had he made the cut, he was in the lead through two rounds. He had made just one bogey through 36 holes.
“There's always an incentive to play and there's always that hope that maybe I can find it,” he said Friday. “There's definitely been times when I haven't been playing well in the last couple years where I thought about and pondered my future in the game. It's nice to finally have one of these validating performances where all that work actually is paying off.”
A third-round 74 dropped him one off the lead, and a 70 on Sunday landed him at 6 under for a T5 finish. After a 71-foot birdie putt on No. 11, Trainer actually briefly held the lead in the final round before bogeying three of his final five holes.
Still, his $289,688 in prize money was roughly $60,000 more than he had made in those 70 starts since Puerto Rico.
COMCAST BUSINESS TOUR TOP 10
This week Name Points
1 Sam Burns 730
2 Sungjae Im 635
3 Hideki Matsuyama 594
4 Viktor Hovland 554
5 Max Homa
6 Matthew Wolff 511 7 Jason Kokrak 506 8 Rory McIlroy 500 8 Lucas Herbert 500 10
Maverick McNealy 453
The Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 highlights and rewards the extraordinary level of play required to earn a spot in the TOP 10 at the conclusion of the FedExCup Regular Season as determined by the FedExCup standings. The competition recognizes and awards the most elite in golf.