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Valspar journal: Jason Kokrak aces 15th hole

Kokrak records his second career ace and vaults near the leaders. Louis Oosthuizen fires a 66.
Jason Kokrak drives the 18th fairway at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course on Saturday (3/23/19) during the third round of the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]
Jason Kokrak drives the 18th fairway at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course on Saturday (3/23/19) during the third round of the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Mar. 24, 2019

PALM HARBOR ― Jason Kokrak was already having a good day when he got to the 15th tee. It got even better a few minutes later.

Kokrak hit an 8-iron on the 194-yard par 3. The ball landed short of the hole and rolled into the cup for an ace. It was his second on tour. It was the first ace at the Valspar Championship since Jonathan Byrd did it in 2015, on the same hole.

Kokrak moved from 5 under to 7 under and stayed that way after the final three holes.

“It took a nice hop and rolled in there just like a putt," Kokrak said. “It’s a hard par 3. But it’s a hole that fits me."

As is tradition, Kokrak bought drinks for everyone in the clubhouse. He also brought two cases of beer into the media room, which is not tradition.

Kokrak’s ace may not even be the shot of the tournament. Russell Knox made a double-eagle two on the par-5 11th hole on Thursday, the first in tournament history. He did not bring beer to the media room.

Moving day

Louis Oosthuizen made the biggest move in Saturday’s third round. He started the day at even par, just one stroke above the cut line. He ended the day in a tie for sixth after shooting 5-under 66. He jumped 28 spots on the leaderboard.

“Yesterday was probably the worst display of ball striking I’ve ever done," said Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion. “Today I didn’t do anything fancy. I didn’t think about anything and just started playing."

Oosthuizen shot 1-over 72 on Friday and made bogey on two of the final three holes. He made four bogeys in his second round. He had only two in Saturday’s round.

Oosthuizen played the front nine in 5-under 31.

The biggest moves of the day came from Sam Burns, Russell Knox, Dylan Frittelli and Harris English. All four shot 67s and moved up 35 spots to 3 under overall. That may not be close enough to overtake Casey, but Oosthuizen thinks a lot of players are still in striking distance.

“I think anyone within five shots tomorrow has a chance to win it," he said.

There’s that guy again

Jim Furyk has a habit of hanging around at the Valspar Championship. He won in 2010. He was runnerup in 2012. And last year during all of the Tiger-mania, Furyk quietly finished in seventh place and picked up a cool $217,750.

Here he is again. Furyk shot a 3 under 68 on Saturday and is 5 under overall. He’s four shots out of the lead, which is pretty steep but not impossible.

“After I thought about yesterday’s round (a 71) I really went into the mindset that I did so much right," Furyk said. “Let’s not focus on the careless mistakes and try to get it going on the weekend. It was nice to get off to a good start, birdieing one and two today, and I got settled in."