John Cook has earned success on the Champions Tour, and even recently raised some eyebrows on the PGA Tour. But there’s one win he’d really like to have and that’s at Newport Beach Country Club.
The part-time Corona del Mar resident said it would be meaningful to win the 17th annual Toshiba Classic.
“It’s an important event for me and I really feel that way,” said Cook, who finished third at the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico Feb. 27. “The [NBCC] golf course fits me.”
And then he joked: “If I can just stay out of my way I should do all right.”
Cook, 53, who has six wins on the Champions Tour, including one this year, said he’ll arrive at Newport Beach Country Club Thursday. The tournament starts Friday. Events are in full swing this week.
When it ends on Sunday, Cook wants to be the one holding the crystal trophy.
“It’s a great tournament [win] to have on your resume,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of success and I feel like I can do well … I feel like my game’s ready. I feel like I have a lot more control of what I’m doing.”
Cook has been third on the Champions Tour money list the past two years, racking up 25 top-10 finishes in the 48 events he played. He certainly started this year out right.
He won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai Jan. 23. But then he said he had average finishes at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla., where he was tied for 17th, and at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla., where he was tied for 43rd.
Cook said he is dedicated to the Champions Tour, so if he chose to play on the PGA Tour he wanted to make sure it fit his Champions Tour schedule.
With two weeks off before the Toshiba Classic, Cook played at the Mayakoba Classic. He said he felt he was playing well, but entered the week with unknown expectations because of his “average” finishes in the two previous tournaments.
But Cook said he gained confidence from his practice round and he believed he would do well.
“It was a fun week, not only because I played well, but it was good to see the younger guys again,” Cook said. “Since I’ve been playing fairly well I wanted to see how competitive I could be in certain places. It turned out almost as great as I could’ve imagined.
“I had a good week of ball striking. I kept it out of the mango trees and the mango bushes for the most part and gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Cook recorded the highest finish on the PGA Tour for a Champions Tour player this year. He shot a 14-under-par 270 (70-68-66-66), finishing three shots behind Johnson Wagner and Spencer Levin. Wagner won after a one-hole playoff.
A victory at the Toshiba Classic would be just as sweet. Cook said he felt he was in contention in last year’s Classic, but saw Fred Couples pull away for the win in his debut, as he finished tied for seventh. That was Cook’s best finish at the Toshiba Classic.
He believes he can do better. The 11-time PGA Tour winner wants to win because he calls the place home for about four months out of the year. Cook, who also lives in Windermere, Fla., likes to walk along the beach in Newport with his wife, Jan.
Their oldest daughter, Kristin, 29, got married at Balboa Bay Club & Resort in 2007. They also have another daughter Courtney, 26, and John, 25, who played golf at Pepperdine and is an aspiring pro.
Cook likes to play at Big Canyon Country Club near Fashion Island, where many of the players' wives have shopped.
“Bring your checkbook,” Cook has told others who come to Newport Beach for the tournament.
Cook hopes to add to his account a $255,000 winner’s check this week.
In addition to the significance of winning near a place he calls home, Cook says a victory would be impressive because of the talented field he’ll be going up against.
There are 23 former PGA Tour major championship winners, as well as 16 who have claimed major championships on the Champions Tour. There are also nine members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. And, there are nine former Toshiba Classic champions.
Next year, Cooks wants to return as the defending champ.