SAN FRANCISCO – John Cook learned much of what he knows about golf from Ken Venturi. Now Cook has a long-awaited victory at a course Venturi once called home.
With his mentor’s voice ringing in his ears, Cook successfully defended his title in the Champions Tour’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday at Harding Park, beating Bay Area native Michael Allen by two strokes.
“One of the great achievements,” Cook said. “His voice was in my head all day long and for some reason it just clicked in. So I had a little extra in there. I’m very happy and proud that I could, you know, be a part of his legacy here.”
Cook shot a 4-under 67 in steady drizzle after rain delayed the start of play, holing a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole for his fifth career title.
Bernhard Langer (69) tied for third with David Frost (71) at 12 under to wrap up the Schwab Cup points race and $1 million annuity. Fred Couples, the only player in position to catch Langer entering the tournament, closed with a 67 to tie for 10th at 9 under. Couples got $500,000 annuity.
“Looking back it’s been an unbelievable year,” said Langer, who won the Senior British and U.S. Senior opens in consecutive weeks. “The thing I (hadn’t) done so far is winning the Schwab Cup, so this was a big deal for me. To come out on top is a great feeling and it’s worth all the hard work over the years.”
Cook began the day a shot behind Allen, but birdied two of the first three holes to take the lead for good. Cook finished at 17 under and earned $440,000 for his fifth career victory on the 50-and-over tour.
Allen shot a 70 in the rainy, windy conditions that hampered his tee shots and forced the 2009 Senior PGA Championship winner to scramble most of the day.
“He really had that blade rolling,” Allen said. “On that front nine there were a lot of two-shot swings that made it tough for me to come back, especially when I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.”
Cook won for the first time since his record-setting performance at Sonoma, and also had his ninth straight round in the 60s.
“If I’d have gone through this year with a win it would have been disappointing to say the least,” said Cook, who had five runner-up finishes this season. “People remember who your champions are and it’s about winning out here.”
Cook won the event by five strokes in 2009 at the Sonoma Golf Club and led each of the first two rounds this year before Allen’s record-setting 10-under 61 on Saturday turned it into a two-man race.
It quickly turned into a survival test in the difficult conditions. All week, players have been allowed to lift, clean and place their golf ball because of issues on some fairways.
Cook was steady off the tee and made only one mistake when he bogeyed No. 5, a 429-yard par 4. It was only his second bogey of the tournament. The turning point came on the par-5 10th.
Allen, who had bogeys on Nos. 4 and 6, birdied No. 9, then sank a 30-foot putt for birdie on the next hole to get to 15 under and a temporary tie for first. Cook responded with his own birdie from 10 feet above the hole, hanging onto the lead and silencing the pro-Allen crowd.
“I pretty much matched Michael,” Cook said. “When he kind of got something rolling, I matched. And then I hit some really quality shots down the stretch.
Cook added another birdie on No. 16, while Allen could do no better than par. Allen made par saves out of the sand on Nos. 11 and 17 and had a chance at forcing a playoff on the final hole before Cook’s clinching putt.
Langer made a brief run with a birdie on No. 9 to get to 12 under, but parred out the rest of the way. A five-time winner on tour this season, the German star is all but certain to win his third consecutive Jack Nicklaus Trophy as the tour’s player of the year.
Additionally, Langer won the Arnold Palmer Award as the tour’s leading money-winner and is the third player to lead the money list three times. Don January (1980, ‘83, ‘84) and Hale Irwin (1997, ‘98, 2002) are the others.
“I came out here three years ago trying to be one of the dominant players,” Langer said. “I had no clue that this was going to happen.”