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July 4, 2002

John Cook


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, John, for joining us for a few minutes here in the interview room. Great round, 5-under 67. Why don't you begin to talk about your round a little bit and we'll go into some questions.

JOHN COOK: Let me start on the back side. Bogeyed No. 10, not a good start. Hit it just in the left rough, just in the right bunker, hit it out and missed about a 5-footer, so it was ugly from the start.

But after that I settled down and played well. I hit about an 4-footer on 11 for birdie.

Made about an 8-footer for par on 12, which kind of kept me back in the race.

Birdied 14, had a nice 6-iron to about 8 feet.

Birdied 18, which is a nice bonus. Had a nice drive and a 6-iron to about 8 feet right of the hole, and snaked one, swooped one in there, had as much break on it as however long it was.

Then I birdied 1, hit a driver, 8-iron to about an inch.

And around there, let's see, I birdied the par 5.

5, I hit it just in the right rough. I could only wedge it out, and then I hit a 9-iron to about 2 feet.

And birdied 9. I had to lay it up and hit a pitching wedge to about 2 feet again and finished out making birdie there.

So I played the par 5s well and actually played the par 3s pretty well, so that was good.

Q. John, is this a day you were maybe able to get more out of your shots? Sounds like when you were on, you were really on?

JOHN COOK: It was a little bit of both. It was a little shaky early. I had not played a round of golf since Friday of the U.S. Open, and yesterday was in the Pro-Am I didn't really know what I was doing out there, so today I didn't know. The first few holes it looked like I was rusty. I was hitting good shots but not quite sharp as far as where I was going, but once I got dialed in, I hit them pretty good, so I was -- for having not played, I played the pretty well. I just tried to keep it as simple as I could and, duh, look what happens.

Q. Was that a planned vacation or -- it was?

JOHN COOK: Planned vacation, yep.

Q. John, if this heat and humidity continues, does this at some point become a test of physical fitness more than golf, or how does that --

JOHN COOK: It's a combination, yeah. You have to be physically fit not only to play in this type of environment but any where on Tour these days. The fittest players are the ones playing the best, maybe with one exception, but I think just on talent alone he's as good as anybody. But, yeah, definitely if you get in the heat and humidity, you need to be physically fit, and I've tried to keep myself fit in the last 10, 12 years, so I feel like I'm in pretty good shape. The heat and humidity doesn't really bother me.

Q. John, what's your plan before the British?

JOHN COOK: I don't know yet. I don't know if I'm going to go over really early and go to Ireland next week or we have another planned vacation in California. But I'll leave early from there, so I'll probably go Friday or Saturday of next week.

Q. Do you look forward to playing there?

JOHN COOK: Yeah. I'm exited about it, excited to be back and proud of myself that I played myself into the tournament already, and that -- you know, at the beginning of the year from where I was, if I had gotten in, yeah, I was going to go, but I really wasn't thinking I was going to go qualify. At this time in my life, I don't need to travel and do that, but if I got in, I would go. I've got fond memories of that place, I feel like I'm a better player, feel like I could handle it if I got in that situation again, feel like I could close the deal, and I'm ready to get back there.

Q. What do you remember most about it?

JOHN COOK: Well, I remember some really good stuff and some pretty bad stuff. I think about it a lot, I really do, on what I could have done down the stretch, and I think in the long run it's really helped me that -- that, you know, I gave a shot away at 17 and bogeyed 18 to lose a by a shot. I would have done things differently on 18 if I had it to do all over again, so I remember good experiences from there.

You can only learn from what you did, whether it was good or bad, and for the most part it was good. I do remember that I went on and finished out the year really well and had, you know, one again and finished 2nd at the PGA and had a couple other good finishes, so it wasn't like I just dropped off the face of the Earth. So I learned a lot from that week, and I feel good about going back.

Q. John, you spoke of one player who is the exception. Does it change your mind-set at all that Tiger Woods is not in?

JOHN COOK: No, no. I think that, you know, you get him on golf courses such as this and, you know, his great attributes are kind of equalized. This is not a big power hitter's golf course. You have to put yourself in play and work your way around the golf course, which he can do, but it just brings more players in that would have an effect on him. And when you've got instead of 4 or 5 guys that can beat him on a big ballbeaters' golf course, you've got 100 guys here that can play this golf course well, those are better odds and I like those odds better. But you get him on a course you have to fly the ball in the air 270, I mean, 5 guys can do that, so I think it effectively eliminates everyone else.

But I think the more players that actually have a chance to play well, you know, those are the weeks that you see things equal out. So whether he was here or not, you know, obviously he would play well, but there's a lot of guys that can play as well around a tract like this.

Q. John, one subject that's been brought up this week is kind of the age old argument about the end of Jack's time, the age old argument about Jack had to beat more Hall of Famers, Tiger has to beat a bigger field. What's your thought on that?

JOHN COOK: Tiger Woods would beat the brains out of all those guys. I'll say it right now. He and Jack would be a great duel every week. But I'll take Phil and Ernie and, you know, Retief and, you know, these other guys and put them against Trevino and Palmer and Billy Casper. I'll do that. It's just we have the one guy that is so dominant that he would have dominated anytime, anywhere, with any club, any ball, any condition. So I don't buy it. I mean, I think it would be great. There would be more guys. So I don't -- I don't see that at all.

And I've played with all those guys, so I've seen the Trevinos and the Nicklauses and the Watsons, and I have great respect for them all because I played with them. You know, as great as Jack is or was and, you know, there's a guy coming up that may beat all of his records, but nobody else will ever. These two guys are -- you won't see that again. But you'll see a Lee Trevino and you will see a Tom Watson and you will see a Billy Casper and you will see an Arnold Palmer and you will see those records, yes, but you won't see a Nicklaus or a Woods.

Q. Those guys that are on the top of the leader board with you today, David Gossett or --

JOHN COOK: Could be, yeah. There's a lot of youth with a lot of talent, and it's not going to stop with these guys. We were just talking about it. I see it with my son and who he plays against, and he's 16, and there's a lot more coming, so be ready.

Q. Do you think the Big 3 were off base when they were talking about the current field kind of laying down and not challenging Tiger?

JOHN COOK: I do. I think Tiger is just the best. I mean, don't get me wrong. Nicklaus pretty much had their number too. It wasn't like they went out and beat him up. They didn't beat him up at all. So Nicklaus had their number, Tiger has got everybody else's number and those are just the two greatest players that have ever played the game.

There were great ball strikers and other players, you know, the Hogans, the Sneads, the Joneses, the Nelsons, but that was the next. Those two guys are the tops, and when it's all said and done, I think that all of these other guys' records will come to the top as well. It's just the one -- or the two guys are just so dominant that it's tough for anybody else to get in there.

Like I said, you get them on golf courses like a Southern Hills, a Muirfield, if Tiger goes down, it would be at Muirfield because Hazeltine is -- well, you know what -- another 7,500-yard par 70, but yeah, I think they were a little off base. I really do. I've seen them all in their prime and played with them all in their prime, and these guys today are just as good as those guys. Tiger Woods is just as good or better than Jack so -- it's quite an argument though.

Q. You were playing with Jack when he was in his prime. Did you think anybody else would come along at that point?

JOHN COOK: No. Oh, heck, no. I thought Watson was, you know -- his record didn't show it, but Watson has just an phenomenal record as well, and I thought, my God, we're playing with the greatest player that ever lived, but we didn't know. There may be somebody else that comes along but those two, they have something different and, you know, playing with Tom in his prime, I thought he was phenomenal. I got to see, you know, Hogan hit balls later in his years, and it was a treat. I spent countless thousands and thousands of hours with Venturi, so I know all about that era and those guys, so I have a little bit of experience with all of them and feel like these players today could easily play with those players under the same circumstances, same situations.

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

JOHN COOK: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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