Cook's redemption week kicks off with a 64
October 10, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Austin Cook hit all 18 greens in regulation in his opening round at the Houston Open. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
HOUSTON – Four years ago, Austin Cook Monday qualified for the Houston Open. He shot 8 under that morning, then sweated out the rest of the day before his spot was secured. His swing coach Chuck Cook then gave him a lesson. Afterwards, he left feeling confident, even though it was just the second PGA TOUR start of his career.
“We kind of got another good feeling,” Cook recalled, “and went with it for the rest of the week.”
Indeed. Not only did he make the cut, Cook entered the weekend at the Golf Club of Houston just one stroke off the lead. On Saturday, he was paired with Phil Mickelson … and beat him by five strokes (70 to Phil’s 75). Early in the final round Sunday, Cook had the outright lead.
It was only then did things unravel. He made five bogeys – and no birdies – on his last 10 holes. He finished with three consecutive bogeys. Not only did it cost him the tournament – and a spot in in the Masters the following week -- it cost him a chance to top-10 into the next PGA TOUR event after that.
“It was a great experience, especially not having a PGA [TOUR] card,” Cook said. “… It was awesome.”
And yet …
“I think I kind of want to redeem myself,” he admitted.
Four years later, the redemption week has kicked off in high gear. Cook, making his first Houston Open appearance since 2015, shot a bogey-free 8-under 64 on Thursday morning to gain a share of the Houston Open lead midway through the first round (Talor Gooch also shot a 64).
The ball-striking that Cook displayed four years ago was on display again Thursday, as he hit all 18 greens in regulation (and missed just two fairways). His biggest shot came at the par-5 eighth, when his second shot from 218 yards finished inside 12 feet, which he converted for an eagle.
And just like four years ago, Cook credited a lesson – this time via video – from his coach for getting his swing straightened out.
“The last few weeks it’s kind of been a little iffy with the ball-striking,” he said. “It was nice to earlier in the week send video to my coach. It was, literally, you just need to get wider, and that’s all I’ve worked on all week.
“Kind of got in a groove right now and just going to work on that and try to dial it in a little bit more.”
Cook certainly was dialed in two years ago when he won The RSM Classic for his first PGA TOUR victory. In his 30 starts since then, though, he had just two top-10 finishes and entered this week off three consecutive missed cuts.
Although he’s a card-carrying TOUR member now, unlike in 2015, Cook said his consistency is lacking compared to four years ago when he had yet to even make a Korn Ferry Tour start.
“To be honest, I think in ’15 I was a little more consistent, as kind of this year shows,” he said. Having status as a TOUR winner has allowed him to be more aggressive on the course but also can lead to finding more trouble areas.
Of course, being a TOUR member has its perks, such as a regular TOUR bag rather than the carry bag he had four years ago at the Houston Open. During the third round, Cook was wearing rain gear from his University of Arkansas days.
“I was repping the home state,” Cook said. “Saturday, I remember being on the first tee and telling my brother, ‘It’s 3-wood, but I cannot tee it up that low right now. I’m so nervous.’ So we hit driver, pumped it in the bunker and made par on the hole and there we went.”
As for playing with Mickelson that day?
“He was great,” Cook said. “Bones was still on the bag then. They were very kind, talkative, didn’t ever big-dog me or whatever. They always answered a question I had. We had a good time.”
Four years later, he’d like to continue the good times in Houston. So far, so good.