When John Cook needed something, anything, to get his golf back on the proper level, he turned to a proven antidote.
Cook is at this week's Nature Valley First Tee Open with a refreshed outlook following his win at the Montreal Championship. After a month of mediocrity, Cook found the magic again to post his third Champions Tour victory of 2011.
There are special places in American golf and for Cook few of those can match Pine Valley. It was there that Cook's competitive juices -- and golf game -- were rejuvenated before his record-shattering performance at the Montreal Championship.
"I had my little three-day outing at Pine Valley with some friends," Cook said. "As golfers know, (Pine Valley) is kind of a Zen place and I had kind of three days of just getting back into playing golf.
"I had not played very well the last few weeks, very, very mediocre and I just was really struggling. I'm really up and down. My emotions go all over the place and I really wasn't very happy with my golf the last month. But I knew Pine Valley was coming up. Four rounds in two and a half days and it's just all golf. It gets me into a real good spot. So you know, sometimes you've got to go back to square one to get to square two."
Cook is at square three. He started the second half of the Champions Tour season the same way he started the first half, with a victory (in Hawaii). Now that he has equaled Tom Lehman for the most victories this year and moved closer at the top of the Charles Schwab Cup points list and Money List, it promises to make for an interesting stretch run for the Champions Tour.
Cook's goal for the year was to start fast and maintain - reversing a trend of starting slowly -- and except for a bit of the mid-season slump that he corrected with the help of Pine Valley, he's on course to do it.
Cook has eight victories on the Champions Tour. The first five came very late in the season. His only victory in 2010 came in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, a title he won for the second straight year.
In 2009, his two victories came in the final three events -- at the Administaff Small Business Classic and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. In 2007 and 2008, he won the AT&T Championship, the final event on the schedule before the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Consider that propensity for late-season successes and the possibilities are unlimited for Cook during the summer of '11 and through to the end of the season.
For Cook, the best part of the victory in Montreal was the quality of his play. It was a battle, even when his lead reached four shots, but he didn't flinch.
"I never felt comfortable, which is a good feeling in the game of golf," Cook said. "Once you start feeling comfortable, something bad always happens, so I never felt comfortable.
"I kept hitting quality golf shots hole after hole after hole, and was very pleased on how I played. I didn't hit every shot perfect, but I hit a lot of really good golf shots."
Cook is old school. He keeps an eye on the leaderboard.
"Absolutely," he said. "You want to know where you stand and anybody that tells you that they don't watch the board are guys that just don't win golf tournaments, they just don't. Because how do you know? How do you know what you need to do?
"I had to know where I stood. If you're not watching the board, how do you know if you're one ahead or one back? I don't get that. Maybe that's new school thinking and maybe that's why kids don't win a lot. They are very, very good, but man, you'd better know what you're doing out there. If I sat up here and told you that I wasn't watching the leaderboard, Ken Venturi would get on the next plane and come up and slap me right in the face."
Venturi, of course, is Cook's mentor who usually enters any conversation Cook has about golf and winning.
Cook's victory in Montreal followed a runner-up finish last year in the province of Quebec. Larry Mize came from behind with a final-round 64 to win the title in 2010.
"It was a little bit in the back of my mind, not much," Cook said. "Somebody could come from behind like that, and I did. I came from behind.
"It's just a great feeling. Winning is winning. Another Ken Venturi: Winning is fun and the more fun we can have, the better off we are."
Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.