Improved play on the green is key for Kokrak

By john bassetti

An inscription on a priest’s coffee mug playfully reads: Golf, it’s not just a game, it’s a religion.

At this point in his PGA Tour rookie season, Jason Kokrak could use some prayers to help his golf game, which has sputtered in recent weeks as the Warren native looks for a resolution.

Kokrak has failed to make the cut in his last three tournaments, but, by no stretch, does the John F. Kennedy High graduate need a complete overhaul of his game as he sits out the Masters this week prior to the RBC Heritage on April 12-15. Kokrak is an alternate for the tournament in Hilton Head, S.C.

“He’s been having some putting problems lately so that’s the reason he’s not making cuts,” said John Diana, the Trumbull Country Club pro who caddied for Kokrak during the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., Mar. 22-25.

Diana was brought on board to help Kokrak — a former student — with his swing.

“He had a couple issues with his swing that we talked about and he needed someone who knew his swing so it could be corrected,” Diana said. “His ball-striking is there, although he had a little bit of bad luck on two holes in Orlando. But those things happen when the wind is 35 mph,” said Diana.

Kokrak’s driving distance remains his strong suit while his greens-in-regulation rating is high, too. But he doesn’t want to rely on a putt-and-a-prayer approach.

“His ball-striking was beautiful and his tee-to-green play was fantastic, but, unfortunately, he was dead-last putting,” Diana said of Kokrak’s all-around play at Bay Hill.

“I saw he had trouble putting again,” Diana said of the Shell Open, “but that doesn’t last forever. I told him his luck will turn around for the better sooner than later. It all comes down to putting.”

Whether Kokrak’s deficiency on the greens improves remains to be seen, but he’s taken proactive steps by changing caddies.

Kokrak’s latest man on the bag is Aaron Alpern, who was with the Warren golfer for the second half of his Nationwide Tour season in 2011.

“That’s when he putted well,” Diana said. “it’s just not happening for him this year.”

Although driving and distance have been his ticket through the ascension, Kokrak still needs to validate the putting part of his game.

He must putt to make the cut.

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