PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Thanks in large part to a timely hole-in-one, Jason Kokrak will head into the final round of the Valspar Championship with a shot at his maiden PGA Tour win.
Kokrak started the day at 2 under, and he remained at that score through the front nine at Innisbrook. But birdies on Nos. 10, 12 and 14 were followed by an ace on the downhill par-3 15th, where Kokrak hit an 8-iron from 219 yards that landed on top of a small knob and never seemed to leave the pin.
“It was one of those holes where we knew we couldn’t hit one more club to get it back there,” Kokrak said. “We had 194 to cover into the down-grain spot, 8-iron was probably pushing 190 and I flushed it, so it carried just far enough and took a nice hop and rolled in there, just like a putt.”
Kokrak closed with three straight pars to finish a back-nine 30, and after a 5-under 66 he will start the final round alone in third place, one behind Dustin Johnson and two shots back of defending champ Paul Casey.
Kokrak has a pair of runner-up finishes in 196 career starts on Tour, the most recent coming at the 2016 Northern Trust. But riding a streak of 17 made cuts that dates back to The Open in July and coming off top-10 finishes at both the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational, he’s eager for an opportunity to break through for his first win at age 33.
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“I like this golf course,” Kokrak said. “It’s a good, hard golf course. There’s nothing quirky about it, it’s right there in front of you, you’ve just got to hit quality shots. You hit good ones, you’re rewarded and you can make birdies, but if you hit bad ones you can make bogeys.”