Day in Review: Cook holds up team by himself Friday

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John Cook was a one-man team for most of Friday's first round at the Liberty Mutual, but more than held his own.
April 22, 2011
John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer

Saying "my teammate carried me" is an oft-heard line at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, one player deferring to his teammate after a good round in the better ball format.

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Often the quote is in jest, but Joey Sindelar said it Friday with a completely straight face. For the final 14 holes at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, John Cook absolutely carried the team.

More accurately: He was the team.

Sindelar tweaked his lower back on his second shot on the first hole and retired for the day after making birdie on the fourth hole. Cook finished the round by himself, shooting 6 under on his own ball overall to give the team a 7 under total, tied for 16th and three shots behind co-leaders Tom Kite-Gil Morgan and Ted Schulz-Gary Hallberg in the Legends Division.

"Rule number one is know how to pick thy partner, and I do. I mean, I need to explain to you guys how awesome what he just did is," Sindelar said. "To have a mental change like that -- he's out there in a team championship playing by himself.

"It's amazing. All the people on every hole are going to be going, 'where's the fourth guy? Where's the fourth guy?' So I just think it's spectacular what John just pulled off."

Given his recent form on the Champions Tour, Cook's effort wasn't a huge surprise. He picked up his second win of the season last week in a playoff at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, moving up to second in the Schwab Cup points race behind Tom Lehman.

"We're getting accustomed to see John Cook play like that," Kite said. "I don't know whether you say fortunately or unfortunately, but it's fortunate for the Champions Tour. It's unfortunate for the guys trying to beat him."

Last week's win was added momentum coming into an event where the Cook-Sindelar team was expected to contend. The former Ohio State teammates lost in a playoff last year to Mark O'Meara and Nick Price and finished third and fourth in 2009 and 2008, respectively.

The teammates knew Friday's circumstance was a possibility; Sindelar's back flared up last week in Tampa and he quit after 12 holes in Wednesday's Liberty Mutual pro-am.

Sindelar did answer the call on the first tee -- ironically, Outback playoff loser Jay Don Blake sat nearby in a cart as the first alternate, ready to play with Cook if needed -- and in the team format he then could have come and gone anytime during the round. Sindelar could sit out Saturday's second round entirely and return Sunday, which he said is a possibility.

"I told him (Friday), 'hey, you can come out anytime. I'll just try to hold the fort down while you're doing your thing," Cook said.

"He was there in spirit. He really was. This is a team thing and I thought if we could somehow just manage to get it in OK and just be a couple behind, if he has any chance at all to go and he feels like he can, we could still do well."

FRESH FACES: Kenny Perry is making his Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf debut, playing alongside Scott Hoch, who just returned to the Champions Tour last week after a 14-month injury layoff.

So one is new to Savannah Harbor and one is back from a long hiatus, but together Perry and Hoch have a knack for team play. They won the Shark Shootout in 2008 and are one shot back after Friday, shooting 9-under 63 including an eagle 2 by Hoch on the par-4 10th hole.

"Somebody was (always) on the green putting for a birdie, and I think in this format that's a pretty good way to do it. It makes for a very relaxing, enjoyable day and be able to make some birdies," Perry said. "I think that's kind of the way ... our partnership goes way back and it doesn't change."

MUSICAL PARTNERS: The Perry-Hoch partnership this week nearly didn't happen, nor did Schulz-Hallberg. Hearing how the teams came together sounded vaguely like a high school prom date negotiation.

"I was going to play with Scott and I called," Hallberg said. "He goes, 'yeah, I'd love to play, but I haven't played. I'm kind of injured, but I should be ready by then.'

"So I go out to Phoenix and I see Ted on the range out there. We were talking. He says, 'hey, who do you play with in the Legends?' I said, 'well, Scott, but he's hurt, I don't know. He says, 'well, Kenny's the same way. I don't know if he's going to play.'"

Schulz had planned to play with Perry.

Finally, Hallberg said he figured that he and Schulz won on the Champions Tour in 2010, so they should play together.

"I'm like, 'well, I'm scared to call Scott and tell him I don't want to go.' I procrastinated for three days I finally made the call. 'Hello, Scott (Hallberg feigns a nervous stutter), it's Gary. Ted and I were talking ...'"

As it turned out, Hoch at the time wasn't sure he would play, so the deal was safe. And Hoch ultimately ended up with Perry, which is working out fine.

FRESH FACES, PART II: Jim Gallagher Jr. is the newest 50-year-old on the Champions Tour, making his third start. His first two efforts in Mississippi (T45) and Tampa (T71) have been in "guide" mode as he says, but this week he's back to the aggressive mode that led to five PGA TOUR titles in the 1990s.

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He and partner Brad Bryant are in the group at 8 under, two shots off the lead.

"You get off to a good start and you kind of just ride the wave," Gallagher Jr. said. "We may have missed a couple out there, but we ham-and-egged pretty well today."

Bryant called Gallagher in January to ask if they could team up, with Bryant's former partner Lonnie Nielsen recovering from surgery and not eligible for the Legends Division.

"I got to looking around, I said 'I think Jim is going to be eligible, I'm going to get me a rookie, if he'll have me,'" said Bryant, 56. "Jim and I were friends on the regular TOUR, so it's just a great opportunity for both of us -- especially for me, it's not often you get to trade in one guy for a Ryder Cupper."

Gallagher played in the 1993 Ryder Cup and 1994 Presidents Cup. In order to play in the first major of the Champions season, next month's Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek, he'll need a win at the Liberty Mutual.

"So our goal is to get him into Regions," Bryant said, smiling, knowing achieving that goal would prove pretty nice for both of them.

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