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November 1, 2009

John Cook


PHIL STAMBAUGH: John Cook shoots a final round 69. Four rounds in the 60s here at Sonoma Golf Club. 22 under par, a tournament record score. Wins the 2009 Charles Schwab Cup Championship by five shots, and it's your second victory in the last three weeks. Congratulations.
JOHN COOK: Thanks, Phil. It hasn't really hit me yet. I'm very, very excited, obviously. Maybe with the exception of Memphis in '96 where I shot a billion under, that was pretty good, I must say.
I had a couple goals today for sure. A couple numbers in mind. One was really unattainable, and that was to try to tie my low under par for 72 holes just to keep my mind working in that mode. That would have been 26, but that was -- that ain't gonna happen.
But my other numbers were 22 for sure. 22 was my number that I wanted to get to during the day. I felt that if I got to 22, you know, and someone beat me, God bless 'em. What else can you do?
I didn't want to make a bogey. That was first and foremost. And I made -- I played some pretty good -- you know, for a long time, I made a really nice par or a nice putt at 14 and a really good one at 15 that kind of kept that all intact.
But the birdie at 17 got me to 22, and that's when I kind of had my first sigh of relief. It's not that easy playing with a big lead, I can tell that you. Your mind starts to wander a little bit, and you really have to reign yourself back in.
And with the help of Tommy Anderson, my caddie, you know, that -- we just stay on point, stay on point all day. Stay on point. This is what we need to do. Stay aggressive.
You know, I hit drivers off just about every hole except 1 and 18. That was a big key. You know, I stayed with my game plan, so pretty happy with this one.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Before we go to questions, go through the three birdies and the good saves you did have out there.
JOHN COOK: Yeah, I birdied No. 1. I hit a 3-wood and an 8-iron from about 150 yards. Hit it about four feet. You know, straightaway I hit two of my best shots of the day.
Didn't really struggle much. Let's see, 9 I made a good two-putt. Hit a nice drive but it just snuck into the right rough and really didn't have much. I left it on a top tier going down to that little hole. I only had 50 yards to the pin, and I made a nice little two-putt. I didn't to have work on my second putt. But I had a downhill, four/five breaker, and it was pretty slick.
I made a nice two putt at 11. Probably my only mental mistake of the day. I tried to hit a hard sand wedge, and of course spun it all the way back down the hill almost off the front edge and made a nice two-putt there.
Then maybe my worst iron shot of the day was at 12 with a 9-iron. I hit it 30 feet to the right of pin. That's pretty much go time for me, and I just didn't hit a very good shot. Then I hooped it from there. Just a big three- or four-foot breaking lefter.
I didn't birdie 13, but I hit a nice drive and just screamed a 3-wood. If it would have hit three or four feet left of where it did, it would have gone all the way up on the green and gone up there pretty good. It was hammered.
I made a nice two-putt at 14. Not a long second putt, probably three-footer, but it was a real key point in time. I still was not very comfortable with what was going on.
Then I made a great par at 15. I hit a really good drive, but it just snuck into the left rough. I had the worst lie I had seen all week. Couldn't get barely a club on it. Just kind of skidded one up to the front -- short front right of the green in the rough. I hit a decent pitch up there about eight feet past the hole, and then buried that one. That was a big, big putt for me.
I tagged a drive at 16 and just pulled a 3-iron just a little bit left. Just kind of took a wicked bounce over to the left. Hit a real nice pitch, but didn't make the putt.
Then I hit a wedge at 17 about two and a half, three feet.
18, I hit 3-wood off the tee today instead of driver, like I was thinking all day long. When I got to that hole, 3-wood, and I just hammered one and hit 9-iron in there. Didn't hit a very good shot, but I was -- just had just said something on the television to Joey. I wasn't really -- my mind wasn't really focused very well.
But got on the green and two-putted, so there you go. I gave Russ a good read off my putt, he made his putt. I had an assist.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Russ talked about the importance of a hot putter. Obviously you led the field in putting this week. Talk about that.
JOHN COOK: Yeah, I just felt good with it. I didn't make big, long putts. I made a couple, like you have to do. But I putted my short putts really well. When I call 'em short putts, I mean five feet on in.
Even when you have like two-footers out here, they get a little dicey. The greens have nice speed. I made, you know, a lot of those. I felt good with that distance and I felt good with my stroke. I got maybe a little more aggressive on the greens than I normally do.
I did make some putts, but the ones that I didn't, that went two and three feet by, not that I went up and tapped them in, but I made every one of those. So I felt really good. I've been working incredibly hard putting. It's the one thing that I think has really kept me back. I've hit a lot of greens and driven the ball well.
Putting just don't feel like I've ever been really aggressive enough. Now I feel like my putter is -- I flattened it out a little bit and added a little bit of loft to it. Ever since I did that at Baltimore, I feel like I've putted pretty well since then. If you don't putt out here, you just don't play. I don't care who are or how good a ball-striker you are. If you don't putt out here, you will not do well.
That's just a message to all the guys that think they're gonna come out and bury when they get out here. If they don't putt well, they will get run over. You better putt good. I've putted good the last couple months.

Q. You won't be able to come back here as defending champion. How difficult is that for you, because you played so well here, you must have great feelings about this course?
JOHN COOK: Certainly it's bittersweet, for sure. The golf course just set up nice for me this year. It was firm and fast. That's right up my alley. I can be aggressive. I know the poana greens. I grew up on them. I don't have any big issues with them.
The weather was great. I'm a SoCal kid, so anywhere in California we can play, that's great with me. Yeah, it's gonna be tough. I am sure harding will be a formidable tasks. Its hosted some big, big events in the last few years. They will host a great event.
Hopefully we get back here, because this area is, we love it. It's a great, great spot to end your year in a wonderful environment with great people. Hopefully they can duplicate that in San Francisco, which I'm sure that they will.
But we're gonna leave Oak Hills and San Antonio where I've won twice, and now here. I want to keep winning, but I don't want keep leaving these places. (Laughter.)

Q. Unquestionably you've had an exceptional ending of the season here. What might you attribute that to?
JOHN COOK: Good question. I played well most of the year. The event in Bend at the Jeld-Wen Tradition, congrats to Mike Reid, but was mine and I let it go. I screamed at myself for a month after that. I just was so torn up by the mistake I made at the last hole, I said that ain't gonna happen again.
I said you can go one of two days ways. Just say you're a regular guy out here making a living, or you can figure out something and try to get better and more aggressive. I felt like the last month or so, I got a little more aggressive around the golf course, hitting a lot more -- you know, go ahead and take a cut at it.
I took shots at pins more. I've always hit a lot greens. I learned from Venturi, just middle of the green, and then when you have a go flag, you go at it.
I kind of brought that in just a little bit and took more chances the last month or so just as far as I knew I was driving the ball well and I knew I was swinging well. Just go ahead and trust it and fire at some flags. I have done that.
Houston you can't do it every hole because there's a little bit of danger around that golf course. But here with the conditions I drove it really well. I drove it fairway and had good numbers. I just said, go ahead. Stay aggressive. Your golf swing is fine. Just go head and do your thing.
I've been a little more aggressive the last month.

Q. You come in here in fifth place in the points, and come in here and let it all hang out. Let's just see what happens. We got nothing to lose.
JOHN COOK: A little bit, yeah. I actually had no idea as far as the points go. I still don't know. I know I made a lot of points, but I have no idea where I finished. That really wasn't on my mind. When I saw the golf course on Tuesday afternoon, I knew -- the wind was blowing 30 miles an hour, but I did get out and play a couple holes.
I played 10, 17, and 18. When I got on the 10th hole saw what the fairways looked like and got up to the greens and saw what they looked like, I said, Hmm, I like this. And when I played No. 18, I went, Boy, this is something. I like this right now. I just felt comfortable when I got here. I felt like my golf swing was okay.
I played pretty well last week. Made a couple mental errors on Saturday I think that hurt me, but I was obviously confident. I felt that I was in control of my game and I just learned the golf course on Wednesday.

Q. So why those three particular holes?
JOHN COOK: I just wanted to get out and walk. I didn't want to play all the holes. It was so windy you weren't gonna learn much. I just said, you know, I just want to get out and play some holes. Let's go walk some holes. This was late in the afternoon. The two of us just walked. Dropped a couple balls. Hit three or four shots off No. 10. Just trying to see where the ball was going. Hit some shots into the green. Hit some shots on 17. Just to get out and walk.
It wasn't just a -- I didn't choose those holes for a reason. They were there. I didn't want to play a bunch of holes with the wind blowing that hard, but I wanted to get out and walk and see what the course was like. When I got to the 10th fairway on Tuesday, I said, Yep.

Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN COOK: Okay. Yeah, I need to learn that course, for sure.

Q. What you said on TV to Joe, I know you go way back with him. Have you spoken with him? Does what happened with him affect you at all today?
JOHN COOK: Yeah, it does effect me. He's an old teammate of mine at school, at Ohio State. We won the NCA's together, we've been partners in the Legends. We're just good old friends from a long time. You know, that kind of shocks you a little bit when one of your compadres goes down with dizziness and all that. I guess they find out it's blood clots. That's serious stuff. We don't like to see anybody, friends or family, just go down like that.
Thinking of him all day. Didn't talk to him last night, but we texted back and forth. He said he was fine. Go finish the deal. I said, Of course I will. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see him tonight. But, yeah, you know, you don't know what to say. I just said, I hope you get well, Joe.
By the time I got that out, I was up to my ball and I was all over the place by then. I had kind of lost my little train of thought. We hope he gets well.

Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN COOK: Memphis in '96, yeah.

Q. How difficult is it to play with the lead? Because if you do make a bogey, do you think it starts to snowball?
JOHN COOK: Yeah, I didn't -- like I said, my one goal was no bogeys, because that gets -- that's a ray of hope for everybody else. No matter if they're making birdies. If you're not making any bogeys, you're not giving things back. I learned that years ago in that event at Memphis. I didn't make any bogeys my last round, I had a big lead and I was way under par.
So finished that off the same way. You know, I know that that was -- and Tiger and I have talked about that, too. That was his philosophy with a big lead at Pebble in 2000. I don't want to make any bogeys. That gives people a ray of hope no matter what. You just don't know what might happen. Things could open the watershed.
You know, so I was really on point. Not that I hit it great and not that I didn't think -- I mean, I had to work a little harder than I wanted to today. But no bogeys was a big thing. That's what I learned from years ago.

Q. John, guys like yourself who is excellent but perhaps not dominate regular tour players and have come out here and been dominate, do you think you can do that next year? Is that a goal of yours, to really be the man out here?
JOHN COOK: Can I be? Well, that's up to the other 77 some guys that play each week. We have some great, great talent coming out. We really do. That's it's only gonna add to what we have out here.
I've really never played with a lot of confidence through my career. I've disappointed myself on a number of occasions. 11 wins isn't chopped liver, but I had many chances to win some big events and didn't do it.
This out here is a second chance for that. I feel like I've played as well maybe as I ever have the last year and a half. And it's getting better. Hopefully that window doesn't close. I keep looking ahead to Hale Irwin and Gil Morgan. And I played with Tom Wargo somewhere this year, and I went, Man, this guy is 67 years old. And can still play, man. He's pretty good.
So I keep looking at those guys and saying hopefully if my health stays and I keep my good routine going and keep playing with heart, that window will stay open for a while. Yeah, I do think I can play with the best guys out here for a number years. There's a lot of them and a lot coming out. I just think this tour is gonna get better and better as we go along.

Q. Some of the questions that we heard today have come out asking players, Have you changed your golf clubs yet to comply with the new rule for the start of the new year, and how do you like them so far?
JOHN COOK: Well, I have hit some. My clubs that I changed to about middle of the year were supposed to be conforming. Most of them are. I got them checked at Baltimore. They're all conforming about down to about the 8-iron. It's really close.
I welcome the change. I look forward to it. You know, my set from Nike is finished, and they should be at the house tomorrow. This is the last time I'll play with this set of clubs. I played pretty well with them, so I'm gonna put them in a case and put them somewhere.
Yeah, it's a great question. I think a lot guys out here feel the same: It's a welcome change. That's what we learned with and grew up with. We grew up with a 55-degree sand wedge, no 65-degree sand wedge. And you learned how to play with it. That's pretty much what we're gonna be doing again: learning how to play different shots and how to work yourself around the golf course. It's gonna be a little bit different.
You'll see guys having to go to a softer golf ball. They're not gonna take big lashes at it, because out of the rough they don't have any idea where it's going. Well, we kind of do. That's how we learned. I do have a set, and I actually welcome the change.
The big thing about this is Tiger's set, except for his wedges, has been conforming all year. So what's that tell you? Uh-huh, guys need to get a lot better at controlling their golf ball, because he wins, what, six or seven out of 16 times with conforming set of golf clubs, they're in trouble.

Q. Earlier you were talking about you go out on the course and you're hitting around, and I heard something that you don't rarely hear a lot. Golfers talk about getting a feel for the course and connecting with the course. Does that really...
JOHN COOK: Yeah, again, that goes way, way back to Ken Venturi. He always said, Just pay attention. You're gonna like golf courses and you're probably not gonna like some. But you gotta figure out how to play 'em and what the conditions are that you like to play in. I like firm and fast.
Again, that's kind of where I grew up. Playing a lot in the desert, seaside, southern California courses. So I welcome that.
But, yeah, that's something that I learned from Venturi and was seconded by Tom Weiskopf when I was at Ohio State. He always said, Just pay attention. Pay attention to the golf course. Just look around.
It's not so much that you have to play practice rounds to get your swing and all that. You're just kind of getting the feel for what the air is doing, how the grass is compared to last week or even last year.
I knew right away on No. 10 that this was gonna be a good week.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Last question.

Q. You mention listening to other pros ahead of you. How difficult do you think it is with the change in times that we've had from when you and I grew up to where every friend you had, your mother was your mother and/or boss when you were at their house to what we have today when if you're out watching someone, a young kid on a course and go, Hey, if you did this... do they look at you and go, Forget it old man? Or do you find that they absorb what you try to tell them?
JOHN COOK: That is an interesting question. Back in our day, I did seek out a Watson or a Bruce Lietzke. I played a lot with Weiskopf besides Venturi and all that. I would seek out guys to play practice rounds with and just observe and learn. I didn't ask questions. I don't ask really questions.
I just watched how they went about their business. My son is 23, and he's a mini tour player. He's just getting that maybe dad does know what he's talking about a little bit. You know, usually -- I was stubborn like that, too. I never listened to my dad.
But you're right. My word of advice -- and some of Jason's friends that we play with are now absorbing more and more things when we play together. They're all very good players. Couple you'll probably see in the next couple years that are very, very good.
The kids from Long Beach are already out already. Malinger (ph), Merrick, Pete Tomasulo. But there's a kid name Byron Smith from the desert. He was I think order of merit champion Canada, but he's from the desert. Very, very good.
And he's kind of getting it. You could tell that two years ago he was very good, and now he's kind of a little more seasoned. He's hitting his wedges better and just hitting his golf ball better. Jason is the same way. Paying more and more attention.
To answer your question further, my advice to a lot of these kids is go find a veteran and play some practice rounds with 'em. We did that and learned a lot. The kids just don't win enough. There are some very, very good players and a lot of talent, but they're not really winning.
Tiger is really good, but, you know, he's not unbeatable. You gotta figure out a way to beat him. He knows what to do, and he's never been afraid to ask questions and seek advice from older players.
If the No. 1 guy in the world is doing it, maybe that's a message to someone else. Maybe they should go do it, too. Not that we have all the answers, but we can certainly tell and make suggestions on how to become champions.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: John, thank you very much, and congratulations.
JOHN COOK: Seriously, my pleasure.

End of FastScripts

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