AP News

Cook makes Champions debut at Administaff

SPRING, Texas (AP) — John Cook has won 11 PGA Tour events. He's among the top 30 career money winners. He's a confidant of Tiger Woods.

That's not nearly enough.

Cook, who took time off this year to take care of some health problems, turned 50 on Oct. 2 and will be a rookie again Friday, teeing off in his first Champions Tour event, the Administaff Small Business Classic at the Augusta Pines Golf Course.

"I have a lot to prove," Cook said. "I had a nice career, but I let some major championships go. That doesn't set well with me. I have a lot to prove to myself and to people.

"I'm not coming out here for a vacation. I'm coming out here to continue what I've done the last 28 years. Once you get inside the ropes, things change for me. Once I click on, I think I won't have trouble finding the fire."

While Cook is making his Champions Tour debut, defending champion Jay Haas is returning to chase Charles Schwab points leader Loren Roberts, who won last week's Senior Players Championship.

Haas has been a dominating force since joining the senior circuit. He finished first in the Cup race last year and had led this season's point standings for 19 weeks, including the last seven weeks in a row before Roberts took the lead with his victory Sunday. Roberts is skipping the Administaff Classic.

"What has happened is what I said could happen a couple of weeks ago," Haas said. "We were talking about the race and they were saying you're running away with it. It took one week to erase the entire lead I had.

"I'm back to chasing Loren. Hopefully, this week he's not here and I can get some points and cut into the lead and it would be down to the last two weeks like it was last year."

Cook values his friendship with Woods.

"I'm lucky," Cook said. "It shows me I've survived in this game a long time. I've remained competitive enough a long time and I've been entrusted by someone who has a chance to be the greatest golfer ever, to talk about golf.

"Early on in his career, he had a lot of questions. He sought out veteran players that have won tournaments. I pick his brain and he picks my brain and still do to this day."

Woods will be watching Cook's progress on the Champions Tour.

"He wants me to come out and play well and I want to do that," Cook said.

Will there be texting during the tournament?

"Guaranteed, definitely," Cook said.

Cook was fifth in the U.S. Open and tied for fourth in the PGA Championship in 1994. He won three tournaments in 1992 but it was his loss in the 1992 British Open, eventually won by Nick Faldo, that sticks in his mind. Faldo trailed by two shots with four holes to play.

"That was mine," Cook said. "Faldo didn't win that one. I kind of gave it back to him. So that's the one that still leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth, especially when they replay it every other day. There are some other tournaments too."

Cook will begin the 54-hole tournament at Augusta Pines Golf Course on Friday in a threesome with two other rookies, Phil Blackmar and Jeff Sluman. Mark Wiebe also is in the field. He joined the Champions Tour last month and won the first event he played, the SAS Championship.

Haas has some advice for the newcomers.

"The main thing you have to do to have success is to be committed, not just physically but emotionally," Haas said. "You have to want to play out here and not be wishing you could play on the PGA Tour. Come out here with the idea that this is what I do now."

Cook is among a group of prominent players who became eligible for the Champions Tour this year. Others are Mark O'Meara, Nick Price, Seve Ballesteros, Faldo, Bernard Langer and Sluman.

"There was a nice window between '91 and '98 where I had a lot of good chances," Cook said. "I won a lot of tournaments but I had other chances slip away that could define your career. Major championships define your career. I was close enough to understand that and to appreciate that."

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