BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — John Cook needed only one tuneup before winning for the first time on the Champions Tour.
Just 19 days after turning 50, and playing in his second event, Cook won the AT&T Championship in San Antonio last October. It came more than six years after the last of his 11 victories on the PGA Tour.
“I was like a rookie,” Cook said of his Champions debut, when he finished 19 shots behind the winner. “I was so psyched to play. The next week I settled in.”
Cook will try for his second title beginning Friday at the Allianz Championship at The Old Course at Broken Sound. He had never played the course before practice rounds this week.
He knows it won’t be easy to be a dominant player on this tour, where courses are often set up to encourage good scoring.
“You have to shoot some low scores,” Cook said. “You have to shoot in the 60s every round to have a chance. You pretty much have to have the hammer down from Hole 1 to 54.”
Cook is among 78 players competing for the $247,000 first prize. Also in the field this week are Fuzzy Zoeller, Nick Price, Ben Crenshaw and defending champion Mark James, an Englishman who repeated the pre-tournament regimen that was so successful a year ago.
That is, he went skiing in France.
“When you win early, you gain some confidence and become a lot more optimistic,” James said.
His success in this event didn’t propel him to an outstanding season, but he finished 18th on the money list at more than $952,000 and was in the top 30 for the third time in four years.
Putting has been a constant source of concern throughout his career.
“I’ve never been a good putter,” James said. “My chipping came back late last year and it took some of the pressure off my putting.”