The team of Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak wasn’t on the minds of many observers early on into the final round of the 2021 QBE Shootout on Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, but they went on a tear for the ages over the final 13 holes to win the PGA Tour unofficial money event.
Na and Kokrak were five shots behind the leader after bogeying the par-3 fifth, and from that point, they rattled off a dozen birdies, shooting 12-under over the final 13 holes to close with a 60 on the day, winning the 2021 QBE Shootout tournament at 32-under by one stroke over Billy Horschel and Sam Burns and two strokes over Harris English and Matt Kuchar, who own this event and were in second place behind Burns and Horschel coming into the action on Sunday of the three-round event.
Each day of the event saw a different format in the team event, and on Sunday, each player played their own ball throughout an entire hole, and team recorded the score of the golfer with the best performance on the hole. In one stretch where the team hit nine-straight birdies, seven were recorded by Na. It was then Kokrak’s turn, as he birdied four of the final five holes, logging a six-foot birdie putt on 18 to win the tournament.
“We got off to a poor start,” Na said. “We kept telling ourselves there are plenty of birdie holes out there. I started making some birdies, and we got hot. On the back nine, I said, ‘Hey, when are you going to show up?’ He said, ‘I’ll be there when you really need me,’ and he really showed up when I needed him.”
“I was leaning on Kevin big time on the front nine; seven-straight birdies was absolutely incredible,” Kokrak added. “He was hitting every shot in the book, and I made a couple nice putts down the stretch. Our games mirror each other pretty well—he putts the lights out of it, I’ve got a hot putter at the moment, and he can wedge it pretty well after my drives.”
This was the first year that the duo paired up in this event, but each has had a runner-up finish with other partners.
Burns—perhaps the hottest golfer in the fall portion of the PGA Tour, winning one event and sitting second in the FedEx Cup standings—and Horschel put together a great streak of their own, birdied 10 of the final 11 holes to finish one stroke behind the leaders.
“Once again got off to a slow start like we did in the scramble format [on Saturday], and once again, we made another bogey as two professionals playing a best-ball format, so that’s really solid,” Horschel joked, “but other than that, we got hot.”
English and Kuchar, the defending champions, added another top-three finish to their sterling resume here. In seven appearances, they have three wins, two runner-ups, and a third. English drained an eagle on No. 17 to get to 31-under, but a par on 18 could get them no closer.
“It was a good run all things considered,” Kuchar said. “I don’t think either one of us were on our best form and I think we partnered up fairly well. There were a couple holes Harris was out that I was able to kind of hold on, recover, even make some birdies, which was fun. And then Harris just kind of owns this back nine and put it on on the back nine. Really, really kind of got us back in at least with a chance on the last hole.”
Jason Day and Marc Leishman had a three-stroke advantage going into Sunday, but they couldn’t keep up with the pace set by the top-three finishers. After extending the lead to four early in the final round, they only recorded one birdie in an eight-hole stretch that bridged the front and back nine, which wasn’t going to be good enough with the way the new leaders were playing. They ended up tied for third at -31 with English and Kuchar.
“Just cold putters,” Leishman said. “But Kevin and Jason, they played some unbelievable golf. I don’t even know what we shot. We just left too many shots out there and just couldn’t get it going. In four-ball, you have to see those putts drop in, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Day, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour but hasn’t done so since 2018, had a non-invasive procedure done to help relieve back pain, which has led to a slow start in the FedEx Cup season, but this result was encouraging—even though they couldn’t close out the victory.
“Obviously every day I come off and I’m just a little bit in pain still because it’s just not quite–it’s hard,” Day said. “Like I’m standing out there and I’m trying to get my left hip back and cover it with the ball, I feel like it’s going to go 50 left and then I kind of dump it back underneath, which is the old move and it’s no good for me.”
Lexi Thompson, an LPGA Tour star, has played in this event five times now, and she recorded her best score in the event this weekend, finishing ninth at 23-under with playing partner Bubba Watson. Her best finish in the event was fourth with Tony Finau in 2017 when they shot 27-under.
“This week is so much fun,” Thompson said. “Growing up with older brothers, just playing with the guys and playing from all the way back. But to be alongside Bubba, always rooting me on, helping me out, and just feeding off each other as a team is an honor to be out there, and we had a lot of fun doing it.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better partner, but she could—I didn’t make that many birdies today,” Watson quipped.
While the next official PGA Tour event isn’t until January at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, pros will see action in Orlando next week for the PNC Championship, an event that teams major winners with a family member in a two-person scramble. Among the participants will be Tiger Woods, who will be playing for the first time since a February car accident that severely damaged his leg. He will be teaming up with 12-year-old son Charlie for the event.
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