Jason Kokrak needs to set some new goals for himself. The 26-year-old Ohio resident picked up the winner’s trophy and check at the Miccosukee Championship, giving him two Nationwide Tour wins in five weeks and locking up a berth on the PGA Tour in 2012.
“This is beyond my imagination. I don’t know if it will hit me for a while,” he said after polishing off a rain-soaked 5-under 66 for a seven-stroke victory. “I would never have dreamt this. At the beginning of the year you set goals that you want to meet and then you set some that maybe are a little out of reach. I’ve already exceeded all the goals that I set for myself this year.”
Kokrak went nearly wire-to-wire while becoming the Tour’s fourth two-time winner this season. His 20-under-par 264 total smashed the tournament record by four strokes. His seven-stroke win over South Carolina’s Mark Anderson matched the fifth-best winning margin in Tour history.
The win was worth $108,000 and vaulted him 11 spots to No. 4 on the money list with only two tournaments left on the schedule.
“Doesn’t he know that the golf course he’s playing is long, and hard?” said Jin Park, looking at the leaderboard late in the day.
Kokrak was simply better than anyone else this week. After battling heat and wind during the first three days, and staking himself to a three-stroke lead, Kokrak turned his attention to the rain in the finale.
A birdie at the first hole, coupled with a bogey by playing partner Matt Every pushed the lead to five and gave the Xavier University graduate all the cushion he needed. Nobody would get close the rest of the day.
Kokrak was at 16 under par and in the ninth fairway when heavy rains rolled through South Florida and forced play to be halted for nearly an hour and a half. When play resumed, the scoreboard-watching Kokrak knew what he had and what he had to do.
“It was target golf today. I kept it where I knew I could control my golf ball,” he said after hitting 15 greens in regulation and leading the tournament in that category. “I knew that nobody was going to shoot four or five-under on the back nine in the rain.”
Not true. Kokrak did it.
The biggest hitter on Tour used his length off the tee to his advantage, pushing his ball as close to the green as possible and setting himself up for wedges in.
He rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at the par-3 11th and knocked it close on the shorter par-4 13th and 14th holes to reach 19 under par. Another short birdie putt at the par-3 17th and a tap-in par at 18 following a bunker shot closed out the win in style.
“Every shot counts, starting on Thursday,” he said. “At the end of the week you add them up and see who won.”
While Kokrak was lapping the field, the battle was on for second place.
Anderson closed with a birdie at No. 17 and a 3-under 68 to take solo second.
“That was big. That salvaged the season,” he said after collecting enough cash to move from No. 53 to No. 25 on the money list. “It’s been kind of lackluster up until now but this makes going into the last two tournaments a lot nicer.”
Anderson’s best effort the year came courtesy of his new belly putter.
“Everybody else was putting so good with it and I just needed to make a change with the putter. I haven’t been making anything this year,” said Anderson, who ranks 73rd in putts per round. “I was kind of nervous about it being so close to the end of the season. I’m still working on some things but it was nice to get a few putts in the hole.”
Anderson finished the week tied for fifth in putting.
Former University of Georgia All-American Harris English, Roger Tambellini and Every tied for third, nine shots back of Kokrak.
Jason Kokrak’s seven-stroke margin matches the fifth-largest in Nationwide Tour history. He is the sixth player to win a tournament by seven strokes -- the last to do it was Ewan Porter at the 2008 Moonah Classic in Australia. Kokrak’s margin is also the second-largest on Tour this year; Steve Wheatcroft won by a Tour-record 12 strokes at the Melwood Prince George’s County Open in early June. But Kokrak’s winning margin is the largest in tournament history, and his winning score of 20-under-par 264 is also a tournament record. D.J. Trahan (2004) and Jason Gore (2008) held the mark at 16-under 268.
--Play was suspended due to heavy rain at 2:17 p.m. A total of 40 players had completed play and 29 were still on the course. The final pairing of Jason Kokrak and Matt Every has completed eight holes. Play resumed at 3:40 p.m. This is the ninth tournament this year that has had a suspension of play.
--Harris English, playing in just his fourth event as a professional, earned $31,200 and moved up to No. 61 on the money list. English won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in July as an amateur. He turned pro at the Soboba Golf Classic, where he collected a paycheck of $2,588 for his tie for 49th place. English used a third-round 62 at the WNB Golf Classic in Midland, Texas. as a stepping stone into a playoff with former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee, who won on the first extra hole. English trails No. 60 Andrew Buckle by $1,900.
--With only two events left on the 2011 schedule, players are down to their final chances to earn PGA Tour cards for the 2012 season. The 25 leading money winners following the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island will graduate onto that Tour.
--Bubba Dickerson was in last place after a third-round 78 and so he was the first man off the tee Sunday morning. Dickerson, playing as a single, raced around the course, literally, in 1:48. The former U.S. Amateur champion was seen jogging in several fairways, along with his caddie and ‘walking’ scorer. Dickerson tagged seven birdies on the day and shot a 4-under 67.
“I was told the record was 1:52 so I was trying to beat that. Now I find out somebody played somewhere in about 1:20,” he quipped. “I keep telling people that I play better when I play fast.”
Dickerson’s 11-stroke improvement from Round 3 to Round 4 is nothing new at this event. In 2008, Dickerson shot a 73 in the third round and dropped to a tie for 55th in the standings. He then posted a 63 in round four and moved up to a tie for 11th finish.
--Miguel Carballo, winner of last week’s Children’s Hospital Classic, added another 2-under 69 to his total and finished 7-under for the week and tied for 19th.
--Defending champion Jason Gore started the final day tied for 48th place. He put together six birdies in eight holes starting at No. 7 and went on to shoot a 5-under 66. Gore finished tied for 12th.
--Andrew Loupe, a Monday qualifier at last week’s Children’s Hospital Classic, earned another start next week in Jacksonville with his tie for 18th place. Loupe tied for 18th last week, too, which gave him a start this week. Tour regulations allow players finishing in the top 25 of a tournament to play the following week if they are not otherwise exempt for that event.
--Brice Garnett, runner-up a week ago as a Monday qualifier, also tied for 18th and will play in Jacksonville. Garnett also moved up to No. 65 on the money list and has a chance to qualify for the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island.