If you asked anyone who would win the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open, nobody, including the American golfer himself, would have guessed Jason Kokrak.
Going into the tournament at the end of last week, it was fellow American Scottie Scheffler who looked hot, while Kokrak did not. He was struggling before and during the first half of the Open, finishing the first round with a score of 68, and then shooting a 71 in the second — his worst of the weekend.
The reigning champion, Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, actually pulled out of the Houston Open due to soreness in his left shoulder. He probably could’ve played better than Kokrak did, at least until Saturday afternoon.
Over the final two rounds, Kokrak knocked in 13 birdies, with four in a row during the middle of the fourth round. This propelled him past Scheffler and Kevin Tway, who ended up tying for second place.
Kokrak gained 11 of his 13 strokes during the third and fourth rounds, which is huge — even more so when you take into account just how far behind he was less than 24 hours prior.
Still, Kokrak had it in him aside from the low starting point. Sunday was a perfect example of this. He finished four strokes under par, while other golfers were playing a stroke over on the final nine.
In addition, Kokrak “rakked” up two bogeys — a double and a triple — to steamroll over Scheffler and Tway, who each had their own impressive performances.
As happy as I am for Jason Kokrak, I do have some sympathy for Scottie Scheffler, because he’s been playing so well recently and has yet to come up with a win. The opportunity was there and he hit the shots he needed to, but he just couldn’t make the win.
Scheffler had the lead, albeit by one shot, on Sunday but when Kokrak’s momentum picked up. He couldn’t keep up and left the green later that day two shots under, closing in at one-under-69.
He didn’t putt a whole lot though, which could have made up that shot difference. It was his three birdies in the final holes of the tournament that put him at a tie with Tway after the final birdie, landing a 69 on the last round.
On the other hand, it was putting that ultimately pushed Tway to second place, ever so slightly outperforming Scheffler. During the final round, he hit 14 of 18 and didn’t miss any putts within 10 feet.
At the last hole, he made a 16-foot birdie on his final putt of the tournament, finishing at eight under.
As of right now, Kokrak, Scheffler
, and Tway will be back in action at the end of this week at the RSM Classic, which will be played at the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia.
Who will not be playing this weekend, or for quite some time actually, is Phil Mickelson. Finishing out the PGA Tour Champions with a win in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Mickelson deserves a cocktail from the cart girl.
Before I get in too deep here, let me preface this by saying I love Mickelson, and I have so much respect for his golf game. In my focus of the PGA Tour, I have quite a few guys that I like a lot can write some positive words for, without showing too much bias toward one or the other.
Mickelson is different. He makes the Tour Champions a little more entertaining than just a bunch of old guys hitting a ball around. The man stays winning after going over the hill.
I mean, he just won the PGA Championship and $12 million back in May, so it was not out of the question for him to seize another championship last weekend.
I feel as though I jinxed Scheffler and Ortiz for the Houston Open in the last Tee Time, so I’m glad I didn’t put Mickelson‘s chance at winning in jeopardy at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, which was held Nov. 11-14 at Arizona’s Phoenix Country Club.
Going down in history as one of the only players to ever win four of his six PGA Tour Champions starts, Mickelson has done it again, winning the season finale with a total score of 19 under, shooting 65 strokes in the first and fourth rounds to clinch the match.
In the last round he didn’t have a single bogey, instead going for three successful birdies in the final holes of Phoenix, hitting with his left hand, of course.
Mickelson took home the final win of the Tour, but it was Bernhard Langer who had the ultimate prize — the Charles Schwab Cup.
In classic old guy fashion, Langer had some back pain and finished 17th in the championship, but shot his age of 64 in the third round to earn the Cup, at the end of both the weekend and the 2020 PGA Tour Champions season.
He went without a bogey and landed two eagles at the beginning and the end of the third round. Putting was where he fell short, finishing at 12 under par after a tough two-under-69. Nonetheless, the German still pulled it off and left the green with his sixth Charles Schwab Cup.
This concludes the PGA Tour Champions for the time being, but the Champions will approach the tee again in January 2022 to start another tour. Until then, catch the RSM Classic on the Golf Channel.