The PGA Tour events that consistently boast the best fields are played on great golf courses, and that’s certainly the case this week with many of the world’s best competing at legendary Riviera Country Club for the 2012 Northern Trust Open. This is also one of our favorite events since it’s in Pacific Palisades, a quick jaunt up the 405 freeway from Cleveland Golf/Srixon’s American headquarters in Huntington Beach.
Because Riviera is such a demanding track, many staffers spent more time practicing on the course than usual. We did some normal loft and lie maintenance and other minor tweaks, but overall, this was one of our slower equipment weeks of the year. Like we’ve said, that’s a good thing – our guys are dialing in their gear and getting ready for a great stretch of golf.
One staffer who seems poised for such a stretch is rookie Jason Kokrak, who’s coming off his first career top-10 finish with a tie for ninth at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The 26-year-old put on an impressive display of power and precision, leading the field in greens in regulation with his 588 Forged MB Irons and ranking sixth in driving distance with the help of the Classic Driver (which launches tomorrow, by the way).
Kokrak made a small change to his wedge setup this week, switching to KBS Tour shafts in his 52, 56, and 60-degree 588 Forged Wedges. These shafts flight the golf ball a little lower and add some spin, which is exactly what he’s been looking for.
We had an opportunity to chat with Jason about his season thus far and what he’s looking forward to in 2012:
How has the transition been from the Nationwide Tour?
I wasn’t on the Nationwide for that long, but it’s still been a big transition for me. There are more tournaments and longer weeks. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday getting the practice dialed in, and then you have the tournament after that. I went out there at the beginning of the year and made my first cut, which was great. Last week I got my first top 10, which was great. Now they reshuffled me and I should be good for the rest of the year as far as getting spots in the field, which is great! But, the transition hasn’t been too bad. I have been playing professional golf at some level for a few years now and it is all about getting into your routine. Out here my routine is different from the Nationwide, which was a different routine from the mini tours.
How are the courses on the PGA Tour different than Nationwide courses?
I think [PGA Tour] courses are a little more manicured. They are more consistent from week to week. It helps to have that consistency when you’re trying to work on a certain shot or hone your game. Mostly, the courses are a little tougher, but they’re similar in green speed and firmness.
You’re known for your driving distance. How has the Classic Driver helped you?
I put the Classic Driver in the bag at the beginning of the year. I tested a few of them, and the one I originally used didn’t have enough spin. I was hitting it great and I had a lot of distance, but it fell out of the air a little bit. But, we made some small adjustments and now I am dialed. I like it a lot. The head is great, looking down at it, it feels very comfortable. It looks different than everything else and it feels better to boot. It’s a great club and it’s going to be in my bag for the foreseeable future.
Do you get a lot of questions from other guys on tour who haven’t seen it yet?
Yeah! A lot of guys want to look at it and look down at it. It is such a great looking driver that everyone is intrigued. The other guys all want to hit it, but it’s mine! Ha! Even the fans, sometimes they will yell out and ask what driver it is, which has never happened to me before. You know, there are a lot of companies that put drivers out there that you have never seen, but it’s great to have something that looks a little different coming from an established company right here in the U.S.
What tournament are you looking forward to the most this year?
I really want to play in my home state in Ohio. Either at the Memorial or Firestone, but both of those would be tough to get into right now. But my goals are to play in those tournaments this year.
‘Til next week…