When chips were down, Cook managed to put them in hole

January 20, 1992|By John Strege | John Strege,Orange County (Calif.) Register

BERMUDA DUNES, Calif. -- It was, Mark O'Meara said, a crap shoot, and the winner accordingly was the one who knew best what to do with his chips.

That was John Cook, who holed two of them in a row, one for birdie, the other for eagle and a victory in the marathon Bob Hope Classic yesterday at Bermuda Dunes.

A resident of nearby Mission Hills, Cook won a record-tying five-man playoff and earned $198,000 for his fourth PGA Tour victory and first since 1987.

"I'm so happy to win here," he said, though "here" was an extraneous word. The 1978 U.S. Amateur champion, Cook has expected more from his career than he had delivered.

"This one, I wanted to win badly," he said. "Badly, badly, badly. This is my 13th year and only my fourth win. I'm disappointed it hasn't been more. I've wanted to get to that next level. I'd been playing well, but I've been teetering. So I've dedicated myself to thinking about winning."

That the onus was lifted at home in front of his father, Jim Cook, and his wife, Jan, was a bonus -- a reward, perhaps, for working overtime.

Cook completed the four extra holes in 5 under par. Only three other tournaments in PGA Tour history have had five-man playoffs, including the 1981 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, won, ironically, by Cook.

Cook finished 90 holes at 24-under-par 336, as did Tom Kite and Rick Fehr, each of whom shot 9-under 63s to get into the playoff. The others involved were Gene Sauers and Mark O'Meara, the fourth-round leader who shot a 69 and for the second straight year lost the tournament in a playoff.

"Five guys, that's a crap shoot," said O'Meara, who rolled snake eyes first, along with Kite. They were eliminated on the first playoff hole, Fehr on the second. On the third playoff hole, the par-5 first hole, Cook used a sand wedge to hole a 20-foot chip that made Sauers' 6-foot putt look about 60 feet. Sauers nonetheless made that one.

On the fourth extra hole, the par-5 18th, Cook used a pitching wedge to hole a chip shot that he estimated was from 70 to 100 feet.

"To go in, it has to be a fluke," he said.

To go in on the heels of his holed chip moments earlier, that has to be fate, from Sauers' perspective.

"That's a hard way to lose," Sauers said. "My congratulations to John, but it's hard to lose that way. But that's the game of golf."

Sauers still had a chance to tie, but his 40-foot eagle putt came up about 2 feet short and one of the most closely contested tournaments had finally concluded.

When O'Meara, playing in the final group, made the turn, 12 players were within two shots of the lead, including last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year, Fred Couples. He faltered at 17 when he pushed a 3-foot birdie putt right of the hole.

O'Meara was the fulcrum for the playoff. He missed a short par putt on 10 and hit his drive out of bounds on 11 to fall from the lead. He needed, and delivered, a birdie at 18 to get into the playoff.

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