Cook's juices get flowing during Tour's major season

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John Cook continues to knock on the door at Champions Tour majors but hasn't won one -- yet.
May 30, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM correspondent

One look at the Champions Tour schedule provided John Cook with all the inspiration he needed to get his game and his competitive instincts in order.

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Five major championships in eight weeks. If that doesn't get the adrenaline flowing for a professional golfer, nothing will. It certainly was the remedy Cook was looking for to combat an indifferent start to the 2012 season.

"It's like a sprint now," said Cook, who will tee it up this week at The Principal Charity Classic after a runner-up finish at the Senior PGA Championship, the first of the majors.

Next week, it's the Regions Tradition and, in short order after that, the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS, U.S. Senior Open and the Senior British will compete the major championship rotation.

"I knew I had some work to do," Cook said. "Not so much game-wise, just more mental than anything. I do tend to beat myself up a lot. I've had three really good weeks so far and I've had three other weeks that I shake my head. I don't know how I do that sometimes. But I got back to kind of ground zero last week at home in Newport, played with some great old friends of mine from high school and college and actually played a little bit with - we call him The Kid -- Patrick (Cantlay). And he was really good.

"I needed to get back into that fun zone. I tend to do that every year. Usually about this time. I'll either go to Pine Valley and go play with some buddies there for a few days, kind of find yourself there, and I did that at home."

Cook said he made "some big strides" while practicing in Southern California leading up to the Senior PGA Championship.

"I played golf at 6:30 in the morning on old golf courses we used to play as kids and walked and carried my bag and didn't hit many balls, just played a lot of holes," Cook said. "I hit it really good at home, I felt comfortable, felt confident."

Cook opened the season with back-to-back top 10 finishes at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (T3) and Allianz Championship (T5). His next top 10 -- a tie for second at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf with partner Joey Sindelar -- didn't come until more than two months and five events later. He tied for 51st at the Insperity Championship three weeks before the Senior PGA.

Cook knew almost immediately upon his arrival at The Club at Harbor Shores for the Senior PGA Championship that things had the potential to be really good.

"The minute we stepped on the golf course and played the front nine on Monday afternoon late, really late, I said from tee to green this is phenomenal," Cook said.

He didn't let the cool, blustery conditions early in the week disrupt his concentration.

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"Because I was hitting it too good and I was thinking clearly for a change," Cook said. "I didn't beat myself up, which was good. So I'm happy with that. That's a big stride for me."

Cook's final-round charge fell short of catching champion Roger Chapman, but how Cook rallied proved something. Despite two early bogeys, his focus and intensity remained.

"It didn't get me down," Cook said. "I didn't get too upset because if I just kept doing what I was doing all week, same pace, same talk, same everything, I've been OK. I said, 'This is it. I'm either going to get back in this game or it's going to be a day where it could be very frustrating.' ... So my mindset was good."

Cook has eight top 10 finishes in Champions Tour majors but is still looking for his first victory. Three times he has lost a playoff -- at the 2008 Senior British to Bruce Vaughan, the 2009 Regions Tradition to Mike Reid and the 2011 SENIOR PLAYERS to Fred Couples.

"I had good chances in a number of them," Cook said. "I just didn't do the right things down the stretch. Couple of them, I just made a couple mistakes. You learn from that. I learned from that. Not that you're not going to make mistakes again, but I know what to do, just getting my brain and my body to sync up together at the right time when it's really needed and keep giving yourself opportunities.

"In those majors I had opportunities and I maybe got a little ahead of myself, but I wanted to get to the finish line and see what happened. And the good things didn't happen.

"So I've learned and hopefully I'll be better for it the next time I'm in that position. I didn't capitalize on my opportunities on the PGA TOUR and that's a big void. It's a big black mark. I've had my chances out here and I would feel the same as I would have on the PGA TOUR. This is what we have. This is what we play for."

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at golfstix@aol.com.

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