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July 24, 2008

John Cook


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks for coming in and joining us today, and many congratulations on a good day. Tom Watson was in and was very pleased with his consistent round. Looking at your scorecard, it would suggest that you had the same sort of day.
JOHN COOK: Very much so. Very pleased to shoot 2-under with no bogeys. Any time you can play an Open Championship round with no bogeys, I think you've done okay.
We got on the first tee today and the wind had switched completely, and it was basically a new course for me. I had never seen it with that south/southeast wind blowing. It was fun. It kept me paying attention, that's for sure, because I didn't know quite where to go.
I played very well. I made one 10-footer for par, and other than that, I hit a lot of greens. I drove the ball in good places most of the time and hit a lot of good-quality iron shots.
So I left maybe a couple out there, but I might have got away with a couple drives that could have kicked in a bunker that didn't. Made one nice par putt, so I'm very happy with 2-under to start.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Where was your 10-footer for par?
JOHN COOK: On the par-3 14, I hit a pretty good little 7-iron right up the middle of the green. It went over the green and into a real unsettling little spot. I had to kind of chip it through the fringe down on the green and hit actually a pretty good shot to ten feet and made that.
But other than that, I had never really had to make a putt for a par, and I hit some good shots.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Two birdies, what did you do on 3?
JOHN COOK: No. 3, it was playing very long, so I hit driver off the tee. I didn't want to lay way back there, so I hit driver and I just chipped a little 7-iron maybe from 135 yards and made about a 15-footer.
The par 5, I was first on the tee and I had no idea what to do. It was straight downwind and if I felt lucky I felt make I could fly it over the little burn there but I didn't know. I had no idea so I just hit a 3-iron down. I hit my hybrid club just short of the green and hit a nice pitch to three feet and made that for birdie.
SCOTT CROCKETT: You're 7th on the Money List in the U.S., your first season on the Tour, and everyone says you've been very solid this year. This round would suggest to be symptomatic of your season so far.
JOHN COOK: Very much so. It parallels my season, not spectacular but consistent. I don't know if I've had chances to win. I've had chances to play very well, and I finished those off nicely but not -- it is about winning, and not that it's frustrating to have not won yet. But these guys are very, very good, and I've played some nice final rounds, but not quite good enough over there to actually have a win.
But I've played well enough to be where I am for sure. I don't feel like I've kind of hit my thing yet, my stride, so we've got this stretch of tournaments starting right here with the Open Championship and our U.S. Open next week, and then there's three really good events in August that will be good, and then we end with four. I'm not going to play at all in September, and then I'll play the last four.
So I feel like I've got a nice season going but to cap it off, you have to win and that's what it's about.

Q. Would winning here make up for the disappointment of the Open in 1992?
JOHN COOK: I feel like my career is incomplete, I really do. Had a nice career, but not great; 11 wins, but not bad. I feel incomplete no, question. As close as I was at The Open Championship at Muirfield and a couple weeks later at the US PGA, I felt like I let a couple slip away. You don't get that many chances when you're not a great, great player; not that I haven't been good, but I'm not one of the top, top guys.
So you have to take advantage of those opportunities, and I didn't. So yes, this would help ease a little bit. Not all the way but a little bit.

Q. Hitting a 7-iron 125 -- do you enjoy that kind golf?
JOHN COOK: Absolutely, I love it over here. I love playing in the wind. I have no problem with that. I learned to play golf from Ken Venturi and we worked on little tiny shots like that a lot.
So whenever I came across to play in The Open Championship, the only thing I really had to adapt to was the time, because I've really enjoyed this type of golf where you can throw your yardage book out of the way and just, how do I get the ball underneath the wind and up the centre of the green.
We don't play that very often in the United States. I can't think of anywhere that it's this firm like this. I know Hawaii this year the wind was blowing very hard, and we played this year in the Dominican Republic and it was blowing really hard.
So you had to improvise a little bit, and I liked that. You've got to pay attention. You have to use another part of your brain and you just can't get up and start firing, grab a club and fire. You have to think about what you're doing.
And you can hit any club; it's just getting up to pin-high and that's where you have to keep thinking.

Q. Playing on Open venues like the Senior Open Championship does, does it encourage American players like yourself to come over?
JOHN COOK: I would think so, using The Open Championship rotation courses helps a little bit. But there's so many great ones. They have played this in Ireland a couple of times, in Aberdeen, which I haven't played those, so that would be very intriguing to me.
I think there's a nice representation of U.S. players this year, not everybody unfortunately. I wish a couple of the other guys would have come over. I think they are just missing part of it, I really do. I missed this championship, The Open Championship, a few times and I just couldn't come over. I just wasn't -- it wasn't in my game plan. I mean, I would have loved to have made it over. I either wasn't exempt or I couldn't come over, and it for me apart when I couldn't play.
But when I did come over, I know how important this championship is in the game of golf, and this particular one now I think is very important for what we do, and I would like to see -- like I said there's a good representation over here but not everybody, and I wish everybody was.

Q. We found it a little strange for example that one of your top players, Kenny Perry, didn't play in The Open?
JOHN COOK: Yeah, that's a little odd, Kenny kind of marches to his own little drum, but in defence of Kenny, his deal was I want to make the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, and he plays well at these other places; so be it. It's probably not the direction I would have gone or chosen. Kenny obviously has had a very fine season over there. But you've got to come over and you have to experience it, and you have to be able to play all this type of golf I think to complete your career.
Like I said, I feel incomplete by not having won a championship over here or a major, and if you don't come over, you don't have that chance to complete that resumé, and I think he missed out.

Q. Along with Mark O'Meara, you were one of the guys closest to Tiger when he first came out on Tour?
JOHN COOK: Yeah, we have a good relationship. He befriended Mark who was in my circle or I was in their circle. We've talked a lot about golf and how important championships are, and Tiger has always made it known, he knows his place in history, how he appreciates the major championships. That's it for him and that's why he's doing what he's doing.
When he comes back, he'll be stronger than ever, there's no doubt in my mind. I saw him two weeks ago, and he was already scary-looking. Wait another nine months before he can do anything, I think he's going to be just fine.
But we've talked at length on creativity and shot-making. When he first came on our Tour, he didn't have a lot of that. He was all about power, which was okay, but to be where he is now, he had to learn some new things, and as great as he is, he's never been afraid to ask Mark or myself or whoever to seek advice on how you hit the little, little shots. And now I know he takes more pride in hitting 7-irons from 135 into the wind than he does the 390-yard tee shot, I can promise you that.
I think that just says so much about how he's matured in his game and why he has no rival; there's none. There's guys that are good, very good, but not on that level, and that's where he's got them. He has that, where other players don't.

Q. Is it because you were coached by Ken Venturi that you can play these type of shots?
JOHN COOK: I think I learned that way, yes. We practised many different ways. When I was little we would practise varying my trajectory and this is when I was 15, 16, 18, 20 years old. We always worked on varying and controlling your trajectory. He didn't really care how far the ball went. It was how it went in the air and what it looked like. That I think helps me adjust to the conditions here where I can flatten out a trajectory or I think hit something low and soft, or I don't have a problem with hitting certain clubs from certain distances. I don't have that ego thing in my mind. I want to hit the correct shot, for me.
Now, we worked on that when I was a kid. We hit two or three or four different clubs to the same spot, and that's how I learned.

Q. Is there coaching like that nowadays or is it gone?
JOHN COOK: No, it's not like that today at all unfortunately. I think they are missing out on that, I really do. I actually applied for the UCLA university coaching job because I felt that way about players, today's young players.
They are very, very good, and while they are very good, why do they not win more than they do. And I don't think that they understand a lot of the presence of the game and how to hit different shots. Now it's all strength and power and they don't play the little shots anymore that can help them win championships, and why they don't, I have no idea. Just look at the world's No. 1; that's as far as you need to look.
And it's not so much short game, just hitting the correct shot at the right time, and that's why I had applied for this coaching job last year. I could still have played, but I wanted to teach, and I wanted to teach good players. Unfortunately I didn't get it, which was fine. I can play more now instead. But I do think that that's what's missing in the United States, and I think it's in the college programmes. There's some very, very good players, but once they get out of school, I don't know what happens to them.

Q. Is that why the US has struggled in the Ryder Cup then - your players are too one dimensional?
JOHN COOK: Absolutely, no question about it. I totally agree. You look at the guys who are successful on our Ryder Cup Team, and those guys, they are not so much the big power guys, but the guys you don't know of that have learned a little bit; the Furyks.
Tiger record is what it is, but you have to remember half of those points are somebody else's points, too. I think that you're right. There's a lot of talent on the u is s tour, that are young players, but they need to start winning something in my eyes.

Q. (If you had gotten the UCLA position, how much would you have been able to play)?
JOHN COOK: Well instead of playing 25 events like I am this year, I would have played 15 to 18, so it would have been all right.
I would have already done recruiting for the next coming season, and if I had f I'd have gotten all my work done for the school and done all my recruiting, yeah, I would have come over, absolutely, no question.

Q. What would mean more to you, to win here or to win the US Senior Open next week?
JOHN COOK: Oh, gosh, don't put that one on me. That's why we come over here. This Championship, it is what it is, and it's an important championship in what we do now. It's our major championship, and you can't win majors if you don't play in them and I would dearly love to win this championship just because of my association with the Open Championship.
Next week at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is a course I love dearly, as well. We played a lot of amateur golf. There's a big amateur tournament called the Broadmoor Invitational we played in, one of the big amateur tournaments. I enjoyed that, as well. I do now how special it is over here. I had learned to appreciate that and finishing runner-up like I did in '92 and then going around that next year or later in the year overseas to play, I didn't completely realise how important this championship was, so this would be just fine with me.

Q. Is the person who did get the UCLA job anyone we know?
JOHN COOK: Probably not, his name is Derek Freeman, and Derek came on last two years ago as an assistant to the previous coach who took the Duke University job. They ended up winning our college championship last year, and one of his seniors won the individual.
But he's a very good player, Kevin Chappell. You'll hear a lot from Kevin Chappell, he's a good player.
The one thing I learned from Venturi was if you give back to the game -- I don't know how else to give back to the game, other than teaching young players like he taught me, and he taught others.
I have a son that's 22 and he's playing some Canadian Tour and some Nationwide Tour and stuff, and he doesn't like listening to his dad, but I like to teach just relate experiences to him, but I would like to help teach younger players and hopefully get them over the hump so we can continue the good play of what we have over there.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much.

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