Jason Kokrak has put his 1946 Dodge Power Wagon to good use over the past year. It was the centerpiece of the Kokraks’ Christmas card. Heck, it even made an appearance at his son’s elementary school earlier this month.
“Picked my son up from school in it the day I left for the Byron Nelson,” Kokrak said, smiling. “Driving up to the school, everybody is like — they knew I was coming. They didn’t know I was going to do it and drive the truck, but they were like, ‘I can hear you coming in that thing.’”
Kokrak received “that thing” — which is equipped with massive 40-inch tires — courtesy of his victory at the 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club. Now he’s looking to add another “Champion’s Prize” to his collection with the tournament going with a restored 1979 Pontiac Firebird for the 2022 champion.
“That Thunderbird might look pretty good next to it,” he said.
For that to happen, Kokrak will have to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win back-to-back Colonials. Hogan did it twice in 1946-47 and 1952-53. No other golfer has managed to do so.
Daniel Berger, who won the 2020 Colonial, finished tied for 20th last year. Kevin Na, who won the 2019 tournament, missed the cut in 2020.
Jordan Spieth is the only player who has come close to repeating as champion in recent memory. He won the 2016 tournament and finished runner-up in 2017, one stroke behind champion Kevin Kisner.
Kokrak knows it isn’t easy.
“It’s very, very difficult to win back-to-back events year after year,” he said. “It’s just a golf course that it’s very tough to repeat at. It’s a tough golf course to play from the rough. Weather depending, there’s just so many factors that go into winning back-to-back.
“It’s very difficult to do, but I think my game is rounding into form nicely for this week. I’m looking forward to it.”
Kokrak has made the cut in the last five tournaments he’s played, including a tie for 14th at the Masters, a tie for 17th at the AT&T Byron Nelson and a tie for 60th at the PGA Championship.
He will be making his eighth career appearance at Colonial. Prior to last year’s victory, he finished tied for third in 2020.
“Anytime you get to come back to Colonial or any place that you’ve had success, you get great vibes, you get some good mojo coming into the week,” Kokrak said. “Getting that win last year was an amazing feat, back-to-back 65s to open up. Didn’t play my best golf on Saturday or Sunday, but this is a golf course that you tend not to have to go super low at.”
In the end, Kokrak did enough to emerge victorious. Spieth was the hometown favorite on Sunday, entering with a one-shot lead, but struggled with a 3-over 73.
Kokrak’s even-par 70 was enough to earn the victory and a sweet ride home in the Power Wagon.
“It’s pretty funny, people will stop in the middle of the road when I’m stopped at a stop sign and take pictures of it,” he said. “You get the thumbs up all the time from the road crews and whoever is watching. It’s been a really fun thing.”
Bryson DeChambeau, who is recovering from a surgically repaired left hand, withdrew from the Colonial on Tuesday. DeChambeau hoped to play after pulling out of the PGA Championship last week.
The former SMU golfer and 2020 U.S. Open champion will be replaced in the field by John Huh. Huh hasn’t played in the Colonial since 2018 with a best finish of tied for fifth in 2012.
Tech’s Aberg wins Hogan Award
Texas Tech has its first Ben Hogan Award winner.
Red Raiders junior Ludvig Aberg was named as the 2022 recipient during a ceremony on Monday night at Colonial Country Club. Aberg received an invite into the 2023 tournament.
Aberg, who is from Eslov, Sweden, is the third Big 12 golfer to win the award in the past five years, joining Oklahoma State’s Viktor Hovland (2019) and Texas’ Doug Ghim (2018).
Aberg is ranked No. 1 according to the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Aberg won the Big 12 championship and The Prestige this season.
Collin Morikawa, a two-time major champion who is ranked No. 3 in the world, served as the guest speaker for the event. Colonial has been home to the Ben Hogan Award since 2002.