Kokrak looking to stay hot in Greenbrier Classic

Staff/wire reports


Webb Simpson hopes to have another late lead at the Greenbrier Classic — and this time hang onto it.

Phil Mickelson might have a simpler goal: make the cut and go from there.

Jason Kokrak, coming off a third-place finish in last week’s AT&T National, wants to keep the momentum he built at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

They’ll try to improve on past performances on the Old White TPC course when the tournament starts today in West Virginia.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite golf course on the Tour, but it’s a great course and it’s in great shape,” said Kokrak, who shot rounds of 72 and 68 here a year ago and missed the cut. “There’s been a lot of rain here. I think I can take advantage of the par-5s and I think it plays well into my hands.

“I just need to take it one step at a time and one shot at a time.”

That’s the approach Kokrak credits for his solid weekend at the AT&T National, where he finished at 8-under par 276, four strokes behind winner Bill Haas and in a tie for third with D.H. Lee.

Kokrak entered the final round one shot off the lead and finished with a 69. It wasn’t his first chance at a victory on a Sunday, with two top-10 finishes this season and a tie for second late in 2012, but Kokrak admitted to some nerves last Sunday at Congressional.

“You try to treat it like any other day, but it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “You just take it one shot at a time and hit the best shot you can. I didn’t try to go after every pin. The more times you put yourself in good position, the better your chances are.

“If you’re not nervous, you’re not alive. You have to be a little nervous in that situation. I had fun with it and played smart golf. I had a game plan for the course, because it was a U.S. Open-style golf course and the fairways were at a premium.”

The rough shouldn’t be as, well, rough on the Old White TPC.

“I’m confident this week,” Kokrak said. “I played well last week and made the most of what I gave myself. I hit a lot of fairways. ... Getting the right speed on the greens made it easier.

“I was pretty excited about it, but this is a new week and a different kind of golf course.”

With the British Open two weeks away, Mickelson and Simpson are among only four golfers in the top 20 world rankings entered in West Virginia. The others are Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson.

More than half of the top 20 in the FedEx Cup standings aren’t here either. Still, there’s a dozen major champions entered.

Also in the field is Haas, who’s coming off a win last week at Congressional. He’s come close, too, at The Greenbrier, having lost in a three-way playoff two years ago.

This week will have a special meaning for Haas. He and his wife, Julie, have brought their 7-week-old son, William Jr.

“We certainly packed more stuff for this road trip than we’ve ever packed,” Haas said. “It’s a different week than I’ve ever experience on tour, but all for great reasons.”

Their playground is the 6,500-acre Greenbrier resort, which welcomes tour families and advertises relaxed fun with its 721-room hotel, casino, spa and dozens of amenities.

No one seems to have taken more advantage of those than Bubba Watson.

He arrived late last week and shared photos on social media of his escapades in falconry, hanging out at the pool with his young son and during a flyover of the resort.

Watson was in a playful mood during Wednesday’s pro-am, hitting a 4 iron between the legs of an amateur partner standing a few feet in front of him. One group behind, Simpson hobnobbed with NBA great and West Virginia native Jerry West.

“It’s a laid-back week,” Simpson said. “They really cater toward the families at this golf tournament with player parties, family parties, pizza night, bowling night.”

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