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July 5, 2002

John Cook


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, John, for joining us for a few minutes here in the interview room. Great round of 66, bogey-free. It looks like you've gone 35 straight holes without a bogey.

JOHN COOK: The first one was ugly, and I didn't want to do that again. I've really -- I've made some key putts when I needed to, some, you know, good, solid 4 to 6 foot, you know, par putts at times in a round when you need them, and especially yesterday. Today, a bit the same. I hit the ball very solidly, but I had to make a couple putts early to keep the round kind of jump started or just keep it steady. And once I did that and started to feel pretty comfortable from No. 5 on, I really played very well. I really didn't miss a shot, and again, made a couple good putts, but I gave myself opportunities, I mean, almost every single hole, so you're bound to tap a couple in. And I finished up well, so that was a good way to end the day.


Q. John, you said yesterday you had not played since the second round of the Open, and I wondered what was your expectations coming into this event?

JOHN COOK: Right. I played some holes with my son on Wednesday of whatever -- two Wednesdays ago for -- he was practicing for his Florida State Amateur, and I played a few holes with him then, and that was the last time I had hit a golf shot. So coming into this week I had no expectations, zero. I hit balls on Monday and hit very nicely actually for that many days after. I actually kind of surprised myself. Monday evening I worked with the kid that I've been working a little bit with, Brian Bogg, and I felt pretty comfortable.

I played some holes on Tuesday after walking around with my son again at the U.S. Junior Qualifier and really felt good. I mean, I hit the ball good and drove it good and felt comfortable. So Wednesday I was surprised how good I felt. Starting out yesterday I felt a little shaky, obviously, from not playing. But once I settled down, I hit the ball real good. Again, my expectations were low, but here we are, so I have a different game plan.

Q. Do you think you may be trying to keep up with the son now a little bit?

JOHN COOK: Definitely. The way kids are hitting it these days, it's fun to have something like that in common that I can share with him and play. He's a nice player for -- he's just going to be in the 11th grade, so it's fun to watch him progress. And it keeps me sharp, it really does. Playing with he and his buddies keeps me sharp. I mean, Joannie sees it through Buddy's work, and these kids are good. You know, if you're going to play with them, you better show them something.

Q. John, can you talk about birdieing two of the last three holes?

JOHN COOK: I played really well on the back side. I had one little boggle on 11, but I hit some shots to scramble for par, but other than that, I didn't miss a shot. It was just a matter of time before I started making some putts. I made a nice birdie on 15, hit a driver, 3-wood up there, nice pitch, about an 8-footer.

And 16, you know, was a nice birdie from where I hit it.

And 18, I hit a beautiful little 6-iron in there 4 feet behind the hole.

I was really comfortable. I haven't felt this comfortable with my putter for a long time, but there again, I putted well at the Open, putted well at Muirfield and I've been working on some aspects of my game and that's one of the ones that's working.

Actually, part of the question, I'm not even thinking about that. I've had a nice run, a nice year-and-a-half. That's why we're out here is to win golf tournaments. And I feel I can be competitive on golf courses that suit a lot of players, not just four or five players. I feel like you get to a golf course like this, and I have just as good a chance as anybody to win if I don't overload my brain with too much informathion. So just go out and play golf and, you know, just get out of my own way, as you hear all the time. Really, there's a lot to that. Just hit some golf shots and try to make some putts.

Q. (Inaudible.)

JOHN COOK: Yeah. I hadn't really seen, but I know there's some youngsters and some others. I guess I'll probably play with Stewie tomorrow, which is great. He's a neighbor of mine, so it will be fun. It will be a nice challenge this weekend to see, you know, where my game really is. Is this a smoke screen or if I'm playing like I know how to play?

I feel like I've hit enough good golf shots in two days to feel like I've earned my position here. I really have played well, so there's a lot of good players, and nobody is afraid of anybody anymore, so you got to go play and you've got to play well on the weekend. It's not like it used to be where you could kind of have a mediocre day one day and still win a golf tournament. I can't do that. I have to play two solid rounds of golf the next two days to have a chance win.

Q. How long have you been working with Brian Bogg, and what specifically does he have you working on that you've improved?

JOHN COOK: I've worked with Brian going on about two years. I still see Ken Venturi. We talk a lot, but his schedule and my schedule just haven't jelled in a while and I needed somebody -- and actually what Brian is helping me with is a lot of what Venturi did. It's not a lot different. I liked the way Brian presented it, I liked the way he was working with my son a few years ago, I liked the things he was talking about because it was exactly what Venturi was talking about with me 30 years ago.

So I said, well, you know -- we just kind of hit it off, and I knew Brian from college. I actually -- in the days when alumni could recruit for schools, Brian was one of my first recruits to Ohio State from Seattle, and I got to know him a little bit then and a little bit later on. He's been a good player, he's played the Tour, so he's got some credentials. He's, you know, very simple and he just really has me doing what I have done for 30 years. It's just a little combination of -- of that. And having to get stronger and having to be a little bit longer nowadays, he's helped me with that as well. So like I said, he's a good player and he's in town, he's in Orlando, and it's easy to get together.

Q. Did you ever have any concern once you hit a certain age whether or not you're competitive anymore out here, and how do you deal with that?

JOHN COOK: I still do, absolutely, yeah. I think once you get on golf courses, like I said, that suits a lot of players, not just the top five players, you know, I feel like a Nick Price or myself or Mark or, you know, Hal Sutton or whoever can compete, absolutely. There are places where I cannot compete. I'm the first to tell you, you know, and that gets a little discouraging. But yeah, there's been times I thought, you know, what am I doing? I'm just spinning my wheels here and, you know, starting to pursue some other things outside of golf. You know, life after golf, you have to have those things in place. But the more that I've done that, the better I've played, so I've kind of tricked myself into playing well.

Q. Is this the key now, John, don't practice at all for two weeks and go out?

JOHN COOK: Yeah. Don't practice and get life after golf situated, then go from there.

Q. Before Muirfield, will you be taking the same approach, doing any fishing?

JOHN COOK: No. I was thinking about going over with those guys to Ireland, but I just can't. We've got a family trip planned next week in San Diego. My son is playing in a Junior World. I'll get that situated. I'll prepare next week like I should. So, I mean, I'll be out at Torrey Pines playing, so that will be decent preparation. I won't miss preparing for Muirfield. I'm very excited to go. I'll go over a little bit early on the weekend before but, no, I don't think I'll take 10 days after before that one.

Q. John, there's so much talk about the young guns out here. Do you ever feel like the older players are going to get overlooked?

JOHN COOK: Oh, no question. The great thing about this game is anybody in their 40s can compete with the young kids. Given the courses and the conditions, you have 156 guys that can compete. So I do think guys in their 40s, the Lehmans and the Prices and myself and O'Meara and Hal, you know, a couple other guys that really have been overlooked a bit with the youth movement.

But, you know, it's good to get their names out there because they're going to be stars very soon, if they're not already. But that doesn't mean that we can't compete given the right conditions, so it's -- the great thing about this game is you can keep playing, keep competitive for a long time if you keep your body in shape and keep your game a little bit sharp. Like I said, I've got a 16-year-old that keeps my game pretty sharp and, you know, that helps.

Q. Who keeps your game sharper, your 16-year-old or Tiger Woods?

JOHN COOK: We can have some good games, I can tell you. Both actually. That's a good question. Just playing with Tiger at home as much as we do, you have to stay sharp there too. You have to get not even to that level but to a level that is similar at some point, and to watch this guy work is -- is incredible. Anybody -- I mean, he learns a lot from us, but we learn a heck of a lot from him as well. He's not beyond -- or not above asking questions and learning more, and we're not above observing and trying to figure out, you know, how we can get better as well.

So the -- you know, the situation I have at home couldn't be any better. I've got a lot of guys to play with. My son and his friends are good players, so they're fun to play with, and you have to remain competitive to stay in those groups or they'll kick you out.

Q. Is your son longer off the tee than you are?

JOHN COOK: A little bit, yeah, at times, yeah.

Q. It sounds like moving to Florida has been good for your career. Exactly when was that and can you expand on that?

JOHN COOK: August '99 we moved. We started building our house in '98. It was a tough move, obviously, being Californians all our lives, but my wife, it was actually her idea to move and to present myself with a better situation to where I could be more competitive because living out west, I would be gone for four weeks at a time and I could not get home, and that just was killing me. I couldn't take it anymore. I was either going to do one thing or the other.

So we decided to make the move, and I can still play four weeks, but I can be home two or three days during those weeks and I'm not missing out as much as I did when I was in California. So, yeah, that move has been great. The situation is as good as it could be, and I think the kids have grown. There's more stuff for them to do and they're happy. And now two of them are gone and the other one is going to be going here pretty soon, so it's been a great move.

Q. You think it's definitely helped your playing?

JOHN COOK: No question, no question. I'm a lot more competitive than I would be -- to tell you the truth, I may not even still be playing if I was still in California. I just couldn't be away from home that much and I couldn't stand it anymore. I was either going to find something else to do or figure out something, so the move turned out probably better than we expected.

Q. Which taxes are better, California or Florida?

JOHN COOK: Well, we've put two kids through college now with what we've saved, so that's been a good move as well. But how I can get home and the easy travel has been the big thing.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Couple more questions?

Q. John, you've used the word "conditions" several couple times in this interview. Are you talking about (inaudible)?

JOHN COOK: Right. I think you get some golf courses that don't favor anybody, that anybody that tees it up on the first tee has a chance to play well. We do play some golf courses now that are not that way at all. That's frustrating, that they eliminate players early on, and that's difficult. But some of the golf courses we play, the Westchesters and here and the Rivieras and, you know, the Colonials of the world, Harbor Town, you know, anybody can win on those golf courses.

And that's what really makes good exciting golf is, boy, let's have 25 guys up there, they're all pretty close and they got a good chance to win instead of one way up here and couple more guys back here and everybody else is back here. But the conditions really play a big part in that, and I don't understand why people are so blind to that, that, you know, the golf course set-up makes a big difference.

Q. You talked a little bit about this yesterday. Muirfield will bring more people into it.

JOHN COOK: Exactly. It will be firm, it will -- you have to put the ball in play. It's not a 7,500-yard par 70. It's barely 7,000 yards and I think it's a par 71, if I remember correctly. The par 5s are reachable for most everybody in the field, given the right conditions, and you're not hitting driver, woods, into any of the par 5s unless the wind is just really, really howling -- or into the par fours, I'm sorry.

So just for me, being a golf fan, would make more sense that, gosh, there's a lot of guys that can win here. So, you know, I'm excited about that. I'm excited that Muirfield is not going to take the driver out of your hands. If you want to hit a driver, that's fine, but you can whip it around any way you feel it's the right way to go. A lot of times you're so handcuffed, you can't even play. So I think that will be a great test, Muirfield.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, John, for joining us.

JOHN COOK: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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