|Birthday:||May 22, 1985|
Jason Kokrak was raised in Warren and played high school golf at JFK High School in Warren where he twice led his team to the Ohio Boy's state championship as Division III medalist. He went on to play college golf at Xavier University in Cincinnati and graduated in 2007. During his college career, he won both the 2006 and 2007 Ohio Amateur titles. Kokrak turned professional after graduation.
During the 2007 U.S. Amateur, Kokrak led all players with a score of 137 during the 36 hole match play qualifier at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. That same year, he made an appearance in the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, when he successfully came through sectional and regional qualifying.
In 2011, he exploded onto the pro golf scene over the second half of the Nationwide Tour season — winning two events and nearly capturing the season-ending Tour Championship. It allowed him to finish 4th on the Nationwide money list, which earned him 2012 PGA Tour membership.
Jason Kokrak didn’t have much luck with his driver on Saturday.
He’s still in the driver’s seat, though.
Kokrak shot a 1-under 71 in the third round of the Houston Open and sits just one shot back of co-leaders Stewart Cink and Bill Haas entering today’s final round.
“We didn’t really put it in the spots like we did the first two rounds in the fairways but we got the ball around, made a couple key putts and made a couple good iron shots out there,” said Kokrak, a Warren native who shot a 66 on Thursday and a 69 on Friday. “Hopefully we saved that low round for [today].”
Seven players who are within four shots of the lead have never won on the PGA Tour and 12 them still aren’t in the Masters, including Kokrak.
One of them includes a journeyman who had to qualify Monday just to get a tee time at Redstone Golf Club.
In a tournament loaded with so many possibilities, one of the big surprises is a major champion.
Stewart Cink has not been heard from very much since that summer day at Turnberry in 2009 when he beat Tom Watson to win the British Open. His highest finish since then was third, and that was in the four-man field at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. He has plunged to No. 272 in the world ranking.
“Tomorrow is a great learning opportunity for me to get out there and be nervous and perform and try to stay in the moment and let it happen,” Cink said. “I can’t wait.”
Kokrak’s round included three birdies and two bogeys. He also made a crucial putt on No. 17 to save par, one of the few putts that rolled in.
“We couldn’t get too many,” he said. “A lot of them [putts] were rolling over the edges and I couldn’t match up the speed with the line I was taking.
“Hopefully [today] we’ll match both of them up and make them all.”
Kokrak tees off at 12:17 p.m. today with Steve Wheatcroft, who only got into this tournament through a Monday qualifier, got off to a good start and fell back with an embarrassing finish.
Wheatcroft was tied for the lead when he shanked a shot from the greenside bunker on the 18th, the ball coming out at a 45-degree angle, over the green and almost into the gallery.
He made a 15-foot putt to salvage bogey for a 72.
Cink finished off another solid round Saturday by saving par from the bunker on the 18th hole for a 4-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with Bill Haas.
Haas, the co-leader after 36 holes at Bay Hill last week, made seven birdies over his last 13 holes for a 67 and joined Cink at 11-under 205.
Now comes the hard part, 20 players separated by four shots on a course where birdies are available, but the slightest miss can prove costly.
“Tomorrow you’re going to have to play very well,” Haas said. “You can’t just hang on and hope everybody else will fall back.”
Nine players were only two shots behind, a group that included former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (65), former world No. 1 Lee Westwood (67), former PGA champion Keegan Bradley (67) two-time major champion Angel Cabrera (69) and Henrik Stenson (68), who is one round away from playing his way into the Masters through being top 50 in the world.