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January 29, 2003

John Cook


JOE CHEMYCZ: John Cook, 1992 champion, 1997 champion, ten times in the Top 25 in this tournament. Good start for you today. You just like it here, don't you?

JOHN COOK: Yeah, I do like it here. I feel comfortable here. Especially over at Indian Wells, I like that place. I like it where you don't have to hit 2 irons into every par 4, and you can reach all of the par 5s. I like that type of golf course.

Yeah, I played well today. I hit every green but two, and one of those is because I stuck a ball in a palm tree. So, it was a decent ball-striking round. I didn't have to work hard to shoot 8-under. It sounds kind of funny, but I didn't have to work that hard to shoot 8-under.

I've got four more days to do it. It would be nice to have four days that you don't have to work very hard again.

JOE CHEMYCZ: What hole did you stick the ball in a tree?

JOHN COOK: It was No. 1. That was my 10th hole. I just eagled No. 18 and went up, I had like -- something flew right on my ball as I was going to hit it and jerked it to the left and stuck it right in a palm tree. Ended up making a 5.

Other than that, it was way up there. Actually I had to have binoculars to see the ball. Luckily, I could see my markings and everything, so I didn't lose the ball. That helped. It was a good day. I played well.

Q. You just tear Indian Wells apart, don't you? When you won here, you shot 62 and 63 there in '97. Do you go there with that memory and think that's what you ought to be doing?

JOHN COOK: The problem is, you can't go into the day thinking, "I just have to play and I have to shoot this number."

The golf course is very tight and they have got a little bit of rough over there. If you hit it in the rough, it's going to be difficult to shoot a score over there. I drove it pretty well.

When I did miss a fairway, except the one in the tree, I was just in the first cut. That set up my whole round. From there, it's just nothing but 9-irons and wedges and sand wedges. That's pretty much the strength of my game.

And I got the par 5s, except No. 8. I 3-putted No. 8 for par. But the other ones, I didn't have to work very hard to make birdies.

It's the type of course, though, if you can get impatient on the course and you start getting too aggressive, it can make you look stupid.

Q. With Arnold no longer here, you are now the reigning two-time champion, and you almost won it a third time and lost in a playoff. So you know more about winning this tournament probably than anybody here now. What is it that's the key? Is it not thinking, "I've got to shoot 63 every day," or is it something else?

JOHN COOK: I think it's a combination of knowing you've got to shoot a low number and be comfortable shooting low numbers, but not like overtrying. You have to really be patient to do it. It sounds funny that you have to make a lot of birdies, but you have to be patient doing it, and you do. It's that, and being comfortable with the amateurs.

I don't mind playing with the amateurs. It's fun. I played with Aaron Brown and Don Cheadle today, which was fun.

And I've had good pairings. Most every year, I've been in the A field most every year, and I've had good pairings. And I accept it for whatever it is. It's going to be slow, the weather is going to be good, and the sun is going to shine. I could be in a lot worse places than here.

So, I just feel comfortable playing the tournament, playing the courses.

Q. Do you have a greater familiarity with these courses than any other ones that you play regularly?

JOHN COOK: I probably do, just because I've played every year here. So I've played -- this is my 24th Hope. Plus, I saw him as a kid, and I just -- like I said, I feel comfortable on them. But I didn't really play them very often when I lived here.

I would come down here to PGA West every once in awhile or La Quinta, and I would play Indian Wells every once in awhile. I didn't get over to Bermuda Dunes much. So I didn't go out of my way to play them, but I just feel comfortable in the area.

Q. So how does this work with you playing and being a television star now? Are you going to play 20 tournaments?

JOHN COOK: I'm going to play 20 tournaments, and then the tournaments that I don't play, I will do the Sunday show. And it may sound like a lot, but really, I'll either go up on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning, do the show, and comeback home. So I get all week to prepare for whatever I'm going to do the next week, play, or not play, travel with Jason to some tournaments or whatever.

It fits my schedule very well. It doesn't take a lot of my time.

I was curious to see. I'll be 46 this year, so it may be time. I feel like I'm still competitive to play, but I don't want to play every week. So I want to choose the places I want to play, and be ready to play, and this gives me that opportunity to prepare for my tournaments and do this other gig that takes about half a day to do.

I get to learn, you know, live television, it gets pretty interesting. It gives me a year to figure out if I want to do it.

And like I said, I'll be 46 and winding down, anyway. So this might be a nice little transition to the next phase.

Q. You talk about being 46 and kind of winding down, but you had a great year last year. I'm wondering how excited are you by what you did, were you surprised that you were as competitive as you were?

JOHN COOK: Not really surprised because I worked hard. I felt like I could still be competitive, and that motivated me to keep working on my game and keep working out and doing my workouts - and had a chance to win three or four times last year. That also motivated me.

My son motivates me a lot to play with him, and play with the guys around the club; you'd better have your game ready if you're going to play with these guys.

I just kept working on my game. This thing started to come around, the USA thing, and as it got into the final stages, I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to do this. I could still work. I could still be motivated to play. Like Larry said, I could come over to the dark side a little bit and see what that's all about. But it just fit.

I am in no way ready to stop playing. I just want to back down a little bit and really concentrate on the ones that I do play in.

Jason is a junior in high school so this is a real critical year for him, transition into college, and I really want to be around and help if I can. Because I went through the same thing when I was a kid, and I know what he's going to go through. So I just wanted to be around for that, and this allows me to do that - because his summer tournaments are all like a Tuesday through a Friday.

The whole thing just fit, so I was real comfortable with the decisions.

Q. I know in '97 when you won, you were with the celebrity field. Were you in the celebrity field in '92?


Q. Is there a difference playing with the celebrities, as opposed to playing with the amateurs? There's been a lot made -- this year's defending champion kind of begged out of the celebrity field.

JOHN COOK: Yeah, but I heard another story that makes way more sense.

Q. Is there a difference in that regard?

JOHN COOK: If you're going to play with an 18-handicap, it doesn't matter if he's Don Cheadle or Mr. Bermuda Dunes. It doesn't matter.

I'm just prepared. I have no problem with it. I know it's going to be slow, so I'm not really in a big hurry.

I think it's kind of neat. I played with Aaron Brown today. That was fun, talking with him and what's going on. Don, I'm a fan of his, I've seen his movies. I enjoy that. I don't have any problem with it.

It can be a distraction, yeah, but it's -- I don't feel like it really is. I've had very few bad experiences. I've had a couple, but you will. It doesn't matter if you're in the A field or not. You're going to have a bad experience or two. But 99 percent of the experiences that I've had have been great and I don't have a problem with it.

Q. When you won here in '92, you shot a 73 in the second round. Do you think you could shoot 73 tomorrow and realistically contend?

JOHN COOK: Not anymore. I think I started out the day with a triple on No. 10 over here, and that was -- I may be wrong, but that might be the only time a winner has shot over par in any round and still won. I don't know, you might want to check that.

Nowadays, you can't shoot over par this week, let alone make the cut. You're not going to win, that's for sure. It's just too deep. The fields are way too talented and too deep to have just a mediocre day and still win. It's very difficult to have that in this event.

You could have it in other events, but you've got to be 5-, or 6-under every day, really, here to be close. You've got to shoot in the 60s every single round.

Actually, I shot in the 60s every round last year and missed the cut. So that tells you where the scores are going.

On an overall thing, the winning scores are not a whole lot lower, but the whole field's scores are a lot better.

Q. We had a national conference call with Tiger today about the Masters. He may not come back for Torrey pines, he may wait till L.A. or even The Match Play, and that will make seven events without him. What's the feeling about his absence, are you feeling a need? What's the buzz? What's the chat?

JOHN COOK: You'd better get it while it's good, I guess. You know that you have one less star to worry about.

We miss having him here because you always want to compete against the best. Soon enough, we will. He'll be back when he's ready to come back, and he'll be ready to win the first week he's out. So it's not like, "Okay, we've got six weeks that he's not going to be here and then maybe a couple where he's not really ready." He'll be ready.

Really, Hawaii was the only time that I've played and I've been home, so I've been around him. So I'm not really sure what the other guys think. But I do know that if there's a guy that's going to catch Tiger, it's going to be Ernie and he started out the year with that in mind, and he's closed the gap a bit.

Tiger will be ready to play, and he'll be ready to win, right away.

Like I said, you want to win tournaments and you want to compete against the best, but we can't really worry if Tiger is going to play or not because, like I said, the talent pool is so deep that you know if you win a tournament, it doesn't matter if you win Reno or what, you've beat a damned good field and you deserved to win. It doesn't matter who is in the field.

You've got 150 guys that can really play, and it's a great feeling of accomplishment, whether Tiger is here or not.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Take us through your round real quick starting with 10.

JOHN COOK: I started at 10. I actually got it up-and-down from the front bunker, made about a 5-footer. Good way to start the round. Probably one of the toughest holes on the rotation, and I get to start there every year.

Then I settled into the round. I hit a beautiful 4-iron on No. 13 about four feet from the hole and made it, the par 3.

I birdied 15. I hit it in the front bunker and hit a good bunker shot out about four feet.

17, I hit a nice drive and an 8-iron about six feet and made it.

18, I hit a real good drive and a 2-iron and lipped it out, about three feet. I was 227 to the hole and I put this new little 2-iron, it's like an old man 2-iron in the bag, they call it a CPR. It goes very high. I haven't hit a 2-iron like that in a long time. It was nice to see it come off the club face and right at it.

I stick it in the tree on No. 1 and made bogey.

Then I went on a nice little run. I birdied 4. I hit a 7-iron about three feet.

5, I hit it just short of the green in two and pitched up about four feet.

6, I hit a 9-iron about five feet.

7, I hit a wedge about a foot.

8, I hit a 4-wood just off the right front part of the green and didn't hit a very good first putt and missed about a 6-footer. It was 60 feet. I misjudged the speed. I thought it would be quicker, and I just left it short.

9, I actually hit a pretty good shot. It didn't turn out very good, about a 15-footer and missed it.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Thank you. Play well the rest of the week.

End of FastScripts....

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