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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 12, 2002

Cook's sizzling 62 good for 3-stroke Sony Open lead

 • Ishii, Wilson survive to play final rounds
 • No bogeys puts money in Riley's pocket
 • Sony Open leaderboard
 • Sony Open scoreboard

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

John Cook tied his career low and set a tournament record with an 8-under-par 62, which was later tied by Charles Howell III, in the second round of the Sony Open.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

At 44, John Cook knows he's in the twilight of his PGA Tour career. Nice to know he can still shoot lights out.

Cook seized control of the Sony Open in Hawai'i yesterday, blitzing through relatively benign Waialae Country Club in 8-under-par 62 to take a three-shot advantage into today's third round. Cook missed a three-footer for birdie on his final hole and still tied his career low and set a tournament record — which 22-year-old Charles Howell III tied later in the day.

Cook is at 12-under 128 for the tournament. Those at even-par 140 or better made the cut. Hawai'i's David Ishii (70) and Dean Wilson (66) both are at 140. Scott Simpson (69-141) missed by one.

The chase is on this morning, with collegiate hockey player Jerry Kelly (64) Cook's closest pursuer. Chris Riley (67) shares third with Brad Elder (64). K.J. Choi and Fred Funk both shot 65 to get within five of Cook. Howell, who birdied five in a row to play the back nine in 29, is among five at 6-under. That group includes 1998 Hawaiian Open champion John Huston.

The next group, at 5-under, includes Brad Faxon (67), Corey Pavin (66), Jeff Sluman (66) and Jim Furyk (66), who have all won here, and David Toms (67), who lost a playoff with Sergio Garcia last week. Garcia (66) is two more back.

But another day like yesterday and Cook could disappear from view.

"I just left one out there," he said. "I'm not complaining."

When he looked up to see his putt on the eighth hole (his 17th) bearing down on birdie, "59" flashed through Cook's mind, but that putt somehow stayed out, meaning even the possibility of eagle on the par-5 ninth (510 yards) wouldn't add up to the magic number.

"I thought if I made the putt at 8, 9 would be very interesting," Cook said. "But 9 was playing straight into the wind, so I'd have had to hit my two best to get it there ... I absolutely would have gone for it (59). You don't have that many chances."

Cook knows that as well as anyone after 23 years on tour. His best was 1992, when the Hawaiian Open was one of three victories and he was third on the money list. He's only re-visited the top 20 once since (1996) and his win last year at the Reno-Tahoe Open was his first in three years. He needed a final-round 64 to get it, by a shot over Kelly — today's playing partner.

Now there is a genuine hope Cook can make a triumphant return to the elite level, which he admits is motivating him in his final years on the young guys' tour. Not that his game hasn't been at a high level nearly his entire career. Cook has never been in danger of losing his playing privileges, and came here 25th on the career money list with $9.4 million.

"I feel pretty confident in what my game's been doing," Cook said. "I've hit the ball well the last couple years, maybe back to where it was in 1992. I'm a little older — a lot older — and not any wiser."

He's wise enough to have eagled the 18th hole both days, Thursday with a six-foot putt and yesterday blasting in from the bunker. Cook played the back nine in 30, flirted with bogey only twice, got through his round with but 23 putts and had four "2s" on his card.

Part of it was just plain familiarity. Cook, who promised to be on the beach within an hour of his last putt yesterday, has played here nearly every year. He was second to Lanny Wadkins the year before he won. Clearly Waialae, which rewards accuracy over devastatingly long drives, is perfect for his precise game. Until yesterday, he didn't know how perfect.

Kelly took a six-shot lead over Cook into that final round at Reno last August, but triple-bogeyed the 16th hole to help his friend overtake him. Yesterday Cook had his 62 bulls-eyed on the board before Kelly grabbed his driver.

"I knew I had to catch up," Kelly said. "Not let him have six shots in between us. I'm glad there's three, but I wish there were none. He's a good player. He can get on a roll. He's always done that. So ... we'll see what happens tomorrow. We'll talk about Reno together."