OMAHA, Neb. -- He did it again. One week after winning his professional debut, Ben Kohles did it again.
The 22-year old fired a 9-under-par 62 in the final round of the Cox Classic on the Web.com Tour to win for the second straight week. Kohles came from two strokes off the pace at Champions Run and zipped past the field, finishing at 24 under par to win by three over South Africa’s Dawie van der Walt, who settled for an 11-under 60 when he missed a short birdie putt on the final hole.
Kohles is in unchartered territory in becoming the first player in Web.com Tour history to make his first two professional starts victories, pretty impressive for a guy who didn’t even try out for his high school golf team as a freshman.
“I think I played the best round of my life today. That was a blast,” he said after hitting 17 of 18 greens. “I’m pretty shocked myself. What are you supposed to do better than this?”
There isn’t much to do left for the former University of Virginia All-American who collected $117,000 and moved to No. 2 on the money list to lock up a spot on the PGA Tour for 2013.
“I don’t think that part has sunk in yet,” said Kohles, who will try to make it 3-for-3 at next week’s Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo. “It’s pretty life altering.”
Kohles started the final round at 15 under, two back of co-leaders Russell Henley and Luke Guthrie and knew he needed to catch up quickly.
“Attack, attack, attack,” said Kohles, who was in the penultimate group. “Anything can happen behind us. We were just pedal to the metal down to the end.”
Kohles got things rolling with birdies at Nos. 3 and 4 and then closed the front nine with three consecutive birdies.
“Those were big,” admitted Kohles of his efforts at 7, 8 and 9. “…but I knew there were tons of holes left.”
The turning point came at the downhill, par-5 10th when Kohles tried to lay up with a 5-iron but saw his ball bounce into the hazard that bisects the fairway.
“It was 230 yards to get over the creek and I didn’t want to risk it,” he said. “I guess I should have hit 6.”
Kohles’ was able to hit it out of the hazard but his third shot wound up in a bunker, about 30 yards from the pin. He hit his next shot to 12 feet and canned the putt for par, probably saving the round.
From there, it was back to attack mode. He birdied the next hole from 8 feet to reach 21 under and tie van der Walt, who was already in the clubhouse.
Kohles stuffed a pair of 7-irons to a foot and five feet at Nos. 14 and 15 to reach 23 under and gain some separation from the field.
Van der Walt did all he could to put pressure on the field as well as potentially joining the elite club of players who have posted 59s.
“When I made birdie at 14, I thought I had a good chance at it coming in if I could make a few more,” he said. “I think the most nervous I was was on the 18th hole when I had that putt to shoot 59.”
Van der Walt had a couple of chances at it. He missed an 8-footer for eagle at 17 and then watched as his 6-footer for birdie at 18 slid by the cup.
“I just missed a few putts coming in,” he said.
Meantime, the rest of the field was making plenty of birdies – the top eight finishes had one total bogey and shot a combined 50 under par – but it wasn’t enough to catch Kohles, who punctuated things with an 18-footer for birdie to make the final margin three.
Justin Bolli (64), Jim Herman (64), Luke Guthrie (68) and Adam Hadwin (66) tied for third place, four back of the winner.
Justin Hicks (65) and Russell Henley (69) were five off the pace and tied for seventh.
--The top eight finishers had a combined score over 50 under par in the final round. The elite eight tallied 45 birdies, 3 eagles and only one bogey – Justin Bolli at the par-3 eighth hole.
--Jim Herman registered the second ace in as many days when he made a hole-in-one at the par-3 eighth hole. Herman used a 9-iron for his ace, the sixth of his life but only his second in competition. His other came at the 2006 New Jersey Open.
“I couldn’t see it because there’s a little ridge in the green,” said Herman. “Luke (List) had just stuffed it in there to about 18 inches and the crowd went crazy. When I hit mine the place went nuts. It was awesome.”
Herman shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 and finished in a tie for third.
--Ben Kohles becomes the 12th player in Web.com Tour history to register consecutive victories but only the seventh to win in consecutive weeks. The others were: Tommy Armour III at the 1994 Miami Valley Open and Cleveland Open, Jerry Haas at the 1994 Tri-Cities Open and Sonoma County Open, Chris Smith at the 1997 Dakota Dunes Open and Omaha Classic, Pat Bates at the 2001 Shreveport Open and Tour Championship, Jason Gore at the 2005 National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic and Scholarship America Showdown, and Kohles at the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and Cox Classic
--The previous Web.com Tour record for the quickest to win twice to begin a career was Kevin Stadler, who took only four career starts to win two times. His first start came in the 2002 season and then he didn’t play again until the summer of 2004 when he won his first start that year and then won again two starts later.
--Ben Kohles matched the Tour record for the quickest to win twice in the fewest starts in a single season, joining Daniel Chopra, who won his first two starts in 2004. Chopra was a member of the PGA Tour that year and wasn’t eligible for the Tour events in the weeks that he played on the Web.com Tour.
--Justin Bolli turned out to be a good luck charm this week. Bolli shot a 7-under 64 to finish at 20-under par and tied for third but wound up witnessing the best shots of the tournament. Bolli played with Matt Hendrix on Friday when Hendrix made a double eagle at the par-5 10th hole. He played with Jeff Cuzzort on Saturday when Cuzzort made a hole-in-one at the par-3 16th. On Sunday, he was paired with Jim Herman when Herman aced the par-3 eighth hole.
“I may go the casino tonight,” he said with a laugh. “I might not win but the guy next to me will!”
--Luke Guthrie didn’t win Sunday despite a 3-under 68, but his tie for third helped him collect another sizeable paycheck. Guthrie collected $31,200 for his efforts this week, which moved him from No. 33 to No. 20 on the money list. The former University of Illinois All-American has pocketed $117,600 in two starts the past two weeks and moved into contention for a berth on the PGA Tour in 2013.
--Dawie van der Walt’s runner-up effort is a career-best for him on the Web.com Tour. His second-place finish is the first top-10 finish for the 29-year-old from South Africa. His previous best finish was a tie for 11th at the 2011 Midwest Classic.
--The 315-yard ninth hole has been the easiest par 4 on Tour for six consecutive years. Annually it plays to a scoring average around 3.5. There have been between 15 and 18 eagles made on the hole in each of the past six years. There were four eagles recorded on the hole in the first round and there were nine more in the second round but there were none during the third round and only one on Sunday (Reid Edstrom).