American Kokrak, whose best PGA Tour finish was a tie for second at the 2012 Frys.com Open, charged to the top of the leaderboard with a sparkling seven-under-par 64 on a sun-splashed day at Riviera Country Club.
The 30-year-old racked up eight birdies, including five in his last nine holes, and a lone bogey to post a 10-under total of 132, ending the day a stroke in front of compatriot Chez Reavie.
However, several big names were in close pursuit, including nine-times PGA Tour winner Dustin Johnson, twice Masters champion Bubba Watson and world number three Rory McIlroy.
Johnson (66) and left-hander Watson (68) were just two shots off the pace with McIlroy a further two strokes back at six under after carding a roller-coaster 69.
“You definitely can call upon past experiences,” Kokrak, a double winner on the satellite Web.com Tour, told reporters. “I've put myself in that position enough times that I can go out there, stick to my game plan and just hit golf shots.
“I've putted it really well the last four or five rounds out here on tour. That's the biggest key for me. If I putt well, I'm always kind of close to the top-10, top-20.”
Watson, who won the 2014 Northern Trust Open and has always relished playing Riviera, made only three birdies on Friday, and would love to see more putts drop over the weekend.
“It was just one of those days, they (putts) just didn't go in,” said Watson. “Yesterday all of them went in.
“But the short putts is what I liked today. I didn't miss any inside five feet. And I didn't make any bogeys, so that would be pretty good over the weekend.”
Four-times major champion McIlroy, who opened with a 67 on his first PGA Tour start of the year, produced sharply contrasting nines as he mixed five birdies with three bogeys to move up the leaderboard.
“I played the front nine very well, very solid, at three-under par,” the Northern Irishman said. “The back nine was a little scrappy.
“A bogey from the middle of the fairway at 13 and then to three-putt 15 ... two unforced errors there. I can't make those going into the weekend if I want to have a chance to win.”
The cut fell at level-par 142 with Masters and U.S. Open champion Spieth the biggest name to miss out after adding a 68 to his shocking opening round of 79.
“I can certainly take positives out of today's round,” Spieth said after mixing eight birdies with five bogeys. “I'm not going to let this one get to me very much.” – Reuters
Original source: Spieth misses cut at Riviera