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November 7, 2010

John Cook


DAVE SENKO: John, congratulations on defending your title on the third player to win back-to-back season-ending championships joining Mike Hill and Jim Thorpe, and you've now won -- I guess be like Reggie Jackson, I guess, Mr. October. You've now won all five of your titles in October-November, and now you've had -- during that time you've had ten Top 10s in those two months and 33 rounds in the 60s and you're 103 under par. And this is your fifth title in the state of California. And one other thing, you become the second straight week that a former Ohio State Buckeye has won a Champions Tour event. So with that, John, just share your thoughts on your day.
JOHN COOK: I guess when I have a birthday, it means I'm getting a little closer to the end, so I guess it whips me into shape. But it would've been very disappointing to me this year if I didn't win. I thought I played -- with the exception of about three or four weeks, I played very well this year and had numerous chances.
In the past I've had a lot of Top 10s, but this year I had a lot of top 5s and a lot of top 3s, and when you have top 3s, that means you've had some chances to win. If I'd have gone through this year without a win, it would have been disappointing, to say the least. I was happy, of course, about playing well and being competitive, but this is the Champions Tour and you win. This is about winning, and people remember who your champions are, and it's about winning out here.
Like my old friend, Tiger Woods, always says that he just thinks about winning. And that holds true, especially out here. So I'm thrilled to defend. I defended in San Antonio a couple years ago, and had not defended since amateur college days, so I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the way I hung in there today. It was not an easy day. I was just glad that we were able to play.
And we had all kinds of seasons out there today. It was raining; it was hot. It was sunny. The sun went away. It started raining again, da, da, da, so it never really got into a good flow, but I hit a lot of quality golf shots today and I was happy with that.
DAVE SENKO: You made reference maybe a couple weeks ago, talked about your dad being a former coach and kind of putting some emphasis on finishing it off.
JOHN COOK: Right. He was a coach, and he always told his players, you have to finish like champions, whether you're up, down, tied, whatever, you just have to finish it out, and even in the game of golf, you know, growing up, no matter what sport I was playing or if I was racing or whatever I was doing, it was you had to finish. And you remember how you finish and you learn from how you finish, and Venturi was the same way.
You know, you have to understand what's going on down the stretch when, you know, your body is racing and the adrenaline is flowing, and you have to understand how to finish, and that's what great champions do. That's what those Hall-of-Famers do. They were finishers, and it was instilled in me young about finishing and working hard to where you finish physically. You're still ready and mentally you're still fresh. So you know, those words hold true.
DAVE SENKO: Birdies, start off, No. 1?
JOHN COOK: Yeah. I hit a nice drive off 1, and hit a little 8-iron about 18 feet past the hole, and Michael had hit it in there pretty close, and it was the first of a number of good putts that I hit. Made that.
I made a nice up-and-down at No. 2, made about a five-footer for par, and then I hit a real nice five-iron at No. 3 and made about a 20-footer. It was a nice beautiful putt, went right in the middle, just perfect speed.
Five, I drove it to the right and pitched it up in front of the green and didn't get it up-and-down and missed about a 6-footer. But then I came back and probably one of the best birdies I've ever made.
No. 6, even though they had the tees up, it was just playing so long and I hit a nice drive and I hit a hybrid in there about -- I had the identical putt that I had on No. 1, about an 18, 20-footer with a little right-left break and it went in just like the one on No. 1.
So making a birdie on that hole was a huge, huge bonus. Didn't birdie 9. Then came back with a nice birdie at 10, good drive, hybrid down there, a little gap wedge. Michael had made it from the front of the green from about 50 feet up the hill, and everybody -- all the No. Cal Giants fans were hooting and hollering, and I buried one right on top of him and kind of quieted them down a little bit. That was a big putt for me. About eight feet.
I missed a real makeable putt at 11. I thought that might even at some point be a turning point where Michael made about a 15-footer for par and I missed about a 6-footer for birdie. But I didn't let that hurt me and I hit really good golf shots everywhere coming in. And didn't capitalize on much, but I hit good smart shots until 16, and I hit a nice driver right up in front of the green and hit a nice little pitch, pitch-and-run up there less than a foot.
And 17, I hit a beautiful little 6-iron in there about eight feet, maybe 10 feet and missed it. If I made that putt, that was it.
18, hit a beautiful drive, and I knew in the back of my mind, I knew the wind was blowing so hard left-to-right that if I got this started left of the hole, it might hit the tree, so I just kind of aimed it out there to the right and just said just hit a solid shot, if you miss it to the right, it won't be too bad. I didn't hit a great shot. I hit it okay. It was almost pin high, so it wasn't like it was way short. But missed it to the right; terrible lie. One of those lies you wish you could have drawn a better lie than that. It was real soft, and the ball was sitting down. And I said, oh, boy, the last thing you want to do is leave it.
I just wanted to make sure I got it up in the air, and it flew to the hole and rolled about 14 feet by.
And I was going to bury that thing. I just knew it. I just knew it. It was pretty straight and it was a little downhill, so I didn't have to worry about speed, and I just felt so good over it, and I just cleared my mind. When I hit the putt, I said, I can't miss. It's going in. Going right in the middle. And it did.

Q. How far was it?
JOHN COOK: I'd say about 14 feet. Michael was inside of me. I knew I had to make it. I knew I had to make it.

Q. What was the club that you pitched up with on 16 there?
JOHN COOK: 8-iron. A little 8-iron, yeah. A little pitch-and-run. And I probably pitch with more loft than a lot of people, but that's how I learned.
And it was just a nice little pitch-and-run, to close it down and kind of hook it in there and ran up there just real nice. Actually at one point I thought it might break a little to the right and go in. It was tracking.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JOHN COOK: 5-iron. I had 180 yards.

Q. Two unrelated questions here: First of all, on 18 how nerve-wracking was that? It looked on 16 and 17 you were on the verge of ending it. And you come to 18 and it's very feasible you miss that putt you're going to a playoff.
JOHN COOK: Absolutely. I never for a second -- when he made his putt at 17, I knew we were -- this isn't over because 18 is no gimme, obviously. And I just tagged a drive. It was just a nice drive right exactly where I wanted to hit it, right over the top of the trees.
And if the pin would have been more left, I would have been able to hit more of a draw in, but I couldn't. I said just aim it at the flag and if I catch one really solid, it'll go dead straight, and I kind of just maybe caught it a groove low and just kind of caught it out there to the right a little bit. Not a great shot, obviously. But I knew it wasn't over. I knew it. And I think that Michael had made some nice 8, 10, 12-footers today.
He was just battling. He didn't have his best stuff, and he just battled and made some beautiful putts, and I figured he was going to bury his, so I just didn't want to get to that point.

Q. I think we kind of explored this in great depth Thursday, but still -- it's been obviously a long time since you worked with Kenny, but the fact that he group up here and now you've won here at this particular course, when you step back, how significant is that?
JOHN COOK: One of the great achievements. It really is. To have him as a friend and mentor and his voice in my head all day long really means a lot, because he -- since I was a kid, he always talked about the Bay Area. He knew I was a Southern Cal kid, but that didn't stop him from showing me how proud he was of being from here and playing and growing up here and all the stories.
And like I said, his voice was in my head all day long. And you know, for some reason it just clicked in. So I had a little extra in there. So it was quite a walk. I'm very happy, obviously, and proud that I could, you know, be part of his legacy here.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JOHN COOK: Just, you know, "play like I'm standing behind you. Play like I'm standing behind you." He told me that in Memphis about 100 years ago in '96. And whenever I was playing well and had chances to win when he was doing television or I would talk to him before, he said, "just play like I'm standing behind you." And he wouldn't really say a lot. He would just -- when he was behind me, I knew what I needed to do to make a good golf swing. And that was pretty much it.

Q. Again, a couple unrelated, too. (Indiscernible). What are you going to thank him for most that got you here?
JOHN COOK: Yeah. I don't talk a lot during the week. I got a lot going on, and it was by design. I didn't talk to him. I'm going to talk to him very, very shortly after I leave here.
But again, I remember so much. He didn't have to tell me a whole lot. It never really changed. Everything he always told me was the same thing over and over again. So I can remember all the little anecdotes that he would tell me. So you know, I just for some reason we've talked, but we don't work any longer. It's hard to get together, and Kenny is -- you know, I would love to sit down and chat and have that, but we just don't get a chance to spend a lot of time together.
But that doesn't mean I don't remember every single thing he told me, especially on the golf course, especially competing. Because that's all we worked on is on the golf course and competing and how to compete. And you know, sometimes my brain knows when to do, but my body won't allow me to do it. But actually since I've turned 50, I've really gotten back to real basic stuff, with the help of Jamie Mulligan as well, but Jamie sat in on a number of our sessions, so anything Jamie is telling me basically is what Venturi would say, identical.

Q. Have you gotten a text from Tiger yet?
JOHN COOK: There's hundreds coming in right now. And I think he's overseas, but not yet, no.

Q. For those of us who don't live in the state, explain to us the concept of Nor-Cal, So. Cal rivalry, and Michael said he never played against you because he was rock climbing and hiking or something, but still it was prevalent today. So give us a taste of that.
JOHN COOK: Yeah. It's a rivalry obviously. No. Cal and So. Cal. It's Dodgers/Giants, Angels/As. Even now, Padres and Giants. It was always -- when the Rangers, yeah, Lakers Golden State, and then the Warriors. Then when the Raiders came down to LA, it got even worse. It just was terrible. We stole from them. Then they went back. So it was just -- I'm just a huge sports fan, and I follow all of them. I was just an LA fan, and you know.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JOHN COOK: It did a little bit. It did a little bit. And they were fine, but they were pulling for their guy, and that's fine. And I kept telling myself, you know, the Buckeyes can win in hostile territory as well. And I kept saying that, too. Just because it's not a home game for me doesn't mean you can't win.
And you know, I pretty much matched Michael. When he kind of got a little something going, I kind of -- I matched. And then you know, I hit some really quality shots down the stretch, and I really wanted it. I wanted to win, for a number of reasons, and a couple of those just like that.
And you know, even when we were junior golfers, Southern Cal juniors playing the Northern Cal juniors, and you know, some of the great players that they had up here, you know, we had big rivalries. When we had matches, north-south matches or when we had the Holden Cup or anything like that in junior golf, it was we wanted to beat the No Cals, absolutely.

Q. John, when a couple of these bigger events have gotten away from you when you weren't able to finish them off, you were pretty hard on yourself. What was the difference today? Was it more mental or physical or is it a combination that's hard to explain?
JOHN COOK: Combination. It was very mental. Last year I did a good job at the end of the year finishing. And this year I -- the weeks that I either got beat in the playoff or I mean I finished, but some finished better than I did.
Bernhard holed a very live bunker shot to beat me in a playoff. And then at the Legends I missed a 4-footer that I thought we made that would have got Joey a win. And I shot 67 at Montreal with the lead and got beat by a shot.
It was -- I did the right things. The only one that really, really burned me that left a bad taste in my mouth was Traditions this year at Jeld-Wen with Fred Funk and I. I made two bad mistakes coming in, and that just -- that really bothered me.
And I decided, you know, since then I finished strong, you know, with the exception of our Players Championship, which was just a debacle. I played horrible. But other than that, I finished strong. Didn't have chances to win except for San Antonio last week, but I hit quality shots and finished.
So I couldn't be upset because I hit -- I did the right thing. And someone just did things a little bit better. I wasn't going to -- no matter what happened today, I was going to finish strong with the exception of the shot at 18, which I might like to have back, but I kind of hit it over there kind of thinking where I might hit it.
I hit quality shots coming in. I made my -- made strong, firm decisions, matter-of-fact decisions instead of just going with my first thought. And that was important.

Q. You talked about matching Michael today whenever he made a big shot. Can you go back to 10 again? He made that. (Indiscernible). There still was a lot of golf to be played, and you answered it back.
JOHN COOK: It was. It was a big turning point, not a turning point, but it kept things going, and it showed me that even though I didn't birdie 9 and he made a nice two-putt and hit two quality shots in there, I knew nine holes, with nine holes to go, I wanted to shoot under par. And win, lose or draw, you shoot under par on the back side on Sunday and shoot in the 60s, you've done about all you can.
But that one when he made that up the hill and basically I had not -- maybe it was a pretty easy putt. It didn't break much. It was 10, 12, 10 feet. But I knew in the back of my mind this was an important putt, and I buried that one. And that I think maybe sent a little message to everybody else that, hey, this kid is a little tougher than he looks.

Q. You mentioned the North Cal So. Cal rivalry. You obviously didn't play Michael much. But who were some of the big rivals from Northern California and do you have any specific memories?
JOHN COOK: I know Mike Brannen, he was a champion. He won. There was a kid, Dave Navatt won the U. S. Juniors, I think, and maybe the year before Brett Mullen won. He was from Southern Cal. But he was a little bit younger. He was a couple years younger. But he was way better than everybody else, too. So guys like that. Some of the guys I remember. I remember Mike Brannen because he could really play, and David Navatt, and Bobby, of course.

Q. Clampett?
JOHN COOK: Yeah. Bobby Clampett. Was Pat McGowen from up here? Yeah. He was a couple years older, but it was all about the same time.

Q. (Indiscernible). He won the State Amateur in '75. When did you graduate high school?
JOHN COOK: '76. Yeah, the next year. Next summer. I came up and played in the state high school. I forget who I played in the state high school, at Pebble, and we had a pretty good match. I think I beat him on a couple of shots, but we had great respect because we loved coming up here to play and we liked -- even though it was a rivalry, we could respect these guys and they could really play.

Q. John, Michael was saying that after he shot 61 Saturday, what do you go work on? He went out last night and went to Beach Blanket, Babylon, went out to dinner. How did you turn around from yesterday's round to prepare for today?
JOHN COOK: Well, I we want back up to the range and actually watched my son hit balls. He just got through first stage of the TOUR school, so he wanted to come up and didn't want to take a couple days off. He's got -- week after next he goes into the Second Stage, and I just kind of went up and just kind of chilled for a little bit and hit a couple balls and watched him hit balls, and he hits it pretty damn good, I can tell you that.
And I just kind of kept watching him going, wow, if I hit some of those shots tomorrow, those are pretty good. And it just kind of relaxed me, got me thinking about watching him, and you know, how proud we are of our kids, and especially when someone is going through what you did 30-some years ago and understand what they're trying to work on.
And hopefully he's seen me as some motivation this week to spur him on. He ended up last week under some tough conditions and birdied his last hole to get in. You know, I go, that's stuff you don't teach. You know, you don't teach stuff like that. You gotta have that. So just watching him hit some balls last night was a nice little calming effect, and then we had 14 people at CPK. Just chilling. Family and friends kept came coming in. So a lot of fun.

Q. Do you coach your son, and if so --
JOHN COOK: Not really. He will ask for some advice. I don't coach him. He has Jamie Mulligan as his coach, same that works with John Mallinger and John Merritt. Jason's part of that little stable.
But you know, like I said, I hope he pays attention and observes and watches and understands. We do play a lot together, and I just marvel at some his golf shots he hit are very much tour quality. Not to put any pressure on him, but the kid can really play. He really can. And he's improved leaps and bounds in the last 18 months. It's incredible. So no, I'm there to bounce stuff off of. I was stubborn as a kid and he's definitely my son.

Q. I have the same thing with my parents, but when you're let's say the last four holes and you're tied with someone, would you rather that person is in your pairing or in a separate part of the course and a different pairing?
JOHN COOK: I don't pay that much attention. I know what I need to do and I never project ahead, but I know what I need to do. And if I can control myself and if I feel like I hit quality golf shots -- I am looking at the board. I want to know what you need to do. Absolutely. You have to know.
But then you kind of blank out and what do I need to do here, what do I need to do right here. I've won both ways, either with, you know, with the guys or ahead or behind them. And it just depends. It's one of those things that we learned.
DAVE SENKO: Just one other thing while John was talking, the press said he just had one bogey the last two days. It was two for the tournament.
JOHN COOK: I wanted to shoot in the 60s today and did. And I didn't want to make any bogeys, but I did. I only made two for the week, which usually when I win, I haven't made many bogeys, and I hate bogeys. They're bad. They get me all wound up.

Q. (Indiscernible).
JOHN COOK: Yeah. I finished the year nicely since the debacle week at Potomac was just awful. I don't know who that guy was.

Q. Did you try too hard early in the year or what is it about these last two months. I don't know if you could answer when you win 22 times out here. But what's the deal?
JOHN COOK: I think you might be right. I think -- I never read my clippings ever. And I always want to caution people that, hey, accolades are great, but results are what -- I feed off of results and the process in that result.
Just because you're supposed to be good doesn't mean you're going to play good and doesn't mean you have to work less hard, so it's easy to get wrapped up in, hey, knowing you should be really good; you should win all kinds of tournaments; you should be the best out there. I don't buy that. I gotta keep working hard and let the process take you to where you should be.
And sometimes you get out of that. And the people around you also have to know that it's about the process. It's about working and the sacrifices that they've made for me and I've made for them. And it all works out. So I think by the end of the year I feel like I've hit the high points and the low, low points, and then just say, what are you doing? This is a second chance. And you know, you just relax more and know what I've worked on all year and just relax more, and the golf courses that we've played are just -- they fit my eye. I enjoy them all. Like I said, finish like a champion, so I did.
DAVE SENKO: Okay. Thanks, John. Thanks, everybody.

End of FastScripts

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