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May 20, 2009

John Cook


KELLY ELBIN: John Cook, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club. An Ohio native, this will be John's second Senior PGA. Tied for 16th last year at Oak Hill in Rochester New York. John, it's been three decades since you were here for the U.S. Amateur. And reached the finals before falling to Mark O'Meara. Thoughts on returning home to Ohio and coming back to Canterbury, please.
JOHN COOK: Yeah, 30 years ago, that's a long time, as you all know. I can't hardly remember yesterday. But great to be back, I love Ohio, born in Toledo, and lived through Mansfield and Columbus and Akron and moved to California when I was first or second grade. But it's always a joy to come back to Ohio. It's such a great sports state. They appreciate anything from baseball, football, basketball, golf, whatever, the people, the state of Ohio gets behind their native sons and I appreciate that.
So it's great to be back here and back to Canterbury, where I got my clock cleaned about 30 years ago. But just great tradition, Canterbury's just, it's a wonderful place. And I look forward to starting tomorrow. Let's get to the first tee and get this thing going.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions, please.

Q. Can you say what you like about Canterbury. General comments.
JOHN COOK: Canterbury, the golf course is in as good a shape as I've ever seen anywhere. This is some of the best fairways I've ever seen. And which will, if you can hit the fairways, you'll be okay, but that's -- the second question is just, there's a lot of blind shots, a lot of blind tee shots where the fairways slope away from you, not into the dogleg, they slope a way, kind of off camber.
So you really need to pick your sight lines. And it will be interesting. The guy that hits a lot of fairways this week is going to be the guy that's going to be the one to beat. It's not so much anything else.
But it's in wonderful shape, it's a classic old golf course, it's not super long, but it's got a couple nice long holes and a great finishing stretch. So that's Major Championship golf and that's what Canterbury's all about.

Q. How has the equipment and the golf ball's changed golf from when you were here 30 years ago?
JOHN COOK: I think that the driver obviously goes farther, but my irons are the same. They're setup the same as they were 30 years ago. Lofts and lies are the same. Shafts are basically the same. So I don't see that much as far as irons go. The ball, I play the spiniest golf ball they make, so that's not a big thing, but the driver definitely goes a little bit further.
And I don't remember hitting that many non-drivers here 30 years ago. I thought I hit a lot of drivers. Where the front side here I think I only hit two, maybe three drivers. But the back side will let you drive the ball.
So it might play a little bit shorter, but length isn't everything any more. And this golf course will take care of itself. It will defend itself. So the fairways are going to be difficult to hit and if you don't hit fairways, you're not going to be making many pars, I can tell you that. So I think at the end of the week the golf course will easily defend itself against any type of equipment.

Q. Is this kind of a flip-flop of pressure when you were on the regular PGA TOUR maybe it took a little while until you got some experience, until people thought you would win events. Meanwhile, everybody's got experience on this TOUR and then when you get old enough and everybody thinks, you know, maybe they could carry it over, they were on the Regular Tour.
JOHN COOK: It's exactly right. Early years of the PGA TOUR you kind of felt your way on to the TOUR, kind of got more comfortable each week and you played every single week because you had to.
Through the -- after three or four years then you felt like you had a chance to win every single week. And towards the end of your career you were trying to make cuts, which has never been what you ever played golf about.
So when you get to 50, now you're not really worried about that any more, but you want to, you think that you can contend every week, but everybody expects you to contend every week. So, yeah, it's just around about pressure thing, but that's exactly right. And it took a little while to get used to that. Not being, I mean being competitive and playing, but not being competitive enough the last years of your TOUR life and then now you're into that contending pressure again is, getting used to that. It's a lot of fun. I like to remember that feeling.
Last year I had that feeling a lot. So I got more and more comfortable with it and hopefully I will continue that being more and more comfortable with being back in that position where you have chances to win. Because we have always said that you never forget how to win, you forget how to get there. But these guys have won so many tournaments that are out here playing the Champions Tour that that experience factor is there and they know how to win. They know what to do. Sometimes your body won't allow you to do it, but you don't crumble, you know what to expect and how to feel. Getting back used to that is kind of the tough part.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, John has three top-10 finishes coming into the Senior PGA this week.

Q. A past and present question. Mark was here, he talked about the circumstances in the '79 how you were the defending champion and he felt he was the underdog and he talked a little about the match and how he got three, how you got 3-up on him rather quickly. Just on Part A of the question of the past, what's your recollection of sort of the general way that championship round unfolded?
JOHN COOK: Yeah, it, I had had a real good summer, '78 and then I had a real good summer, '79, won about every tournament that I played in that summer. So I definitely felt probably the favorite coming in.
And I just was playing golf, I was just having fun playing golf. I had a tough match I think the third round against Lennie, we went eight extra holes. And I think that took a lot out of me. He was one of my best friends and we went eight extra holes and we were just grinding and grinding and then I end up beating him on, well, I don't know what hole it is now, I think it's the par-3 over here or par-4, I guess it was 8 the way the card reads. And then I played Gary Hallberg in the afternoon in the quarter finals. And I kind of just kind of slept walked.
I just -- and by the time I got to Sunday, I got off to a fast start, but someone, I started, I kept pressing the gas pedal but nothing was coming out, I was done, I was cooked. And Mark played very well. And I just didn't have enough in me to fight him off.
He was making birdies, I just didn't feel like I was hitting enough quality shots to make any birdies at all. And he had me two or three down at after 18 and then just put the hammer down on the front side.
So he deserved to win, he played beautifully, we had a lot of birdies, which you had to do back then to win this championship. And with the field that we had, that match play draw is incredible, if you go through the names that were in that draw, it's, you know everybody. Everybody on that draw you know or know of. He was a very deserving champion that day, no question. He outplayed me big time.

Q. You and your dad are into the design and build business, right you and your dad. The present question.
JOHN COOK: A little bit, yeah.

Q. So you've, what is it about these greens? They were great greens in '79, they were great greens in '21 when the course opened. What is it about them?
JOHN COOK: I just think that great courses and great designs stand the test of time, they don't need to be monkeyed with. And going back to the equipment question, it doesn't matter that the ball -- you still have to make putts. And these greens, you have to be in the right position to make any putts at all.
Now if the greens get too fast, then they lose all their pin placements and that's unfortunate. So hopefully they will keep the greens at a nice speed where they can use more than one spot on each green. So hopefully they don't get trapped into that.
But they're just very well designed. That's the way that a lot of these old classic courses are. They don't have to change a whole lot. They might need a tee here or there, but you start changing the character of the greens, you change the character of the golf course and nobody wants to see that. So Canterbury's really standing the test of time and is a course like Inverness will do that and courses around here are, they're just classic old great designs.

Q. John, most every golfer will think that they can contend for titles. What do you like about your game going into this tournament that you're doing well that would put you in contention?
JOHN COOK: I've had a good last couple weeks. I've hit the ball very well at Tampa, actually at Cap Cana, then Tampa and then the Legends a couple weeks ago. So I think that my tee to green game is in good shape. You never really know until you get to Thursday and how you feel, but I feel confident that my long game will be good.
Short game is always kind of how you get a good feel on the greens. I worked really hard the last couple days on my putting and getting used to the speed and slope of the greens and just trying to figure out where you're going to be.
So if I just get up on the first tee tomorrow and just kind of let it go, I think we'll be all right. It's the times where I get anxious and start steering things and don't let my golf swing go is when I get in trouble.
So not that you're going to be stupid, but you got to be, you got to be cautious, but also aggressive. And I felt that I've played very well the last couple weeks that I've played. I've hit a lot of good quality shots, I've driven the ball nicely, which you have to do around here, and if I can keep steady on the greens, I should be okay.

Q. Talk a little bit about what Firestone has meant to you and your family through the years. This question is only for me, maybe, but a little bit on Firestone.
JOHN COOK: Yeah Firestone, great history with my family, with my father. Just growing up really early, really young age, five, six, seven years old, playing in their junior program. And watching the great professionals play in the World Series and the American Golf Classic and CBS Golf Classic way, way, way back when. It was pretty special to be around here or around there and competing in that junior program with the other kids.
And then moving to southern California, but then coming back to Ohio State and then winning the U.S. Amateur and getting in the World Series of golf where my dad was the tournament director, so there's a great connection, a great history there. So Firestone was a big part of my life growing up.
KELLY ELBIN: John Cook, thank you very much.
JOHN COOK: Thanks, guys.

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