With no holes in his game, Austin Cook may just be getting started after RSM win

Stan Badz/PGA Tour

With no holes in his game, Austin Cook may just be getting started after RSM win

PGA Tour

With no holes in his game, Austin Cook may just be getting started after RSM win

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – If a golf career doesn’t work out, Andrew Landry might consider going into fortune telling. He had a hunch about his old Arkansas teammate/housemate, Austin Cook, and he even went so far as to let Cook’s veteran caddie, Kip Henley, know his thoughts a week ago in Mexico.

“I told Kip, I don’t think that kid knows how good he is, but he’s about to find out,” Landry said Sunday at the RSM Classic. “I feel a win coming pretty soon.”

Seven days soon? Fourteen PGA Tour starts soon? His fourth start as a PGA Tour member soon? Cook checked all those boxes in a magical week on tranquil Sea Island, playing like he was a seasoned veteran and sprinting across the finish line on Sunday with three birdies in his last four holes to shoot 67 and win by four. His total of 21-under 261 was one shot off Kevin Kisner’s tournament record.

Cook, 26, is one of those players who doesn’t really do anything great, but does a lot of things very well. On a chilly, windy and blustery day at Seaside, Cook stayed as cool as an ice cube. The last time he won as a pro, placing first in a two-day event on the Adams Tour Winter Series, Cook collected $4,000. This victory paid a little better: Cook was headed home to Jonesboro, Ark., a cool $1,116,000 richer.

Already there was a party planned for Cook at Jonesboro CC, his home track, on Tuesday. Adam Carney, the pro there, and the man who suggested that Henley, his old boss at a club in Tennessee, give Cook a call in late summer, said the membership planned to gather to celebrate Cook’s ascension to the PGA Tour from the Web.com Tour. Something suggests that the party may have just grown a little larger.

Carney was there on Sunday at Sea Island, joining a large contingent from Jonesboro. Austin’s wife, Crys, was there, his parents were there, Lee Brun, Jonesboro’s director of golf and the man who has helped Cook with his game, was watching, and all were celebrating wildly when Cook’s last birdie putt fell. Also, there were three top juniors from the club who have benefited from Cook’s tutelage and generosity, including Wil Gibson, who will play at Arkansas next fall.

When a young player steps up and wins so early on, it usually marks a pretty alarming development on the PGA Tour. Think John Daly, PGA Championship, 1991.

Cook never won in college, and he didn’t win in his two seasons on the Web.com Tour. Yet nobody who knows anything about the young man and his positive, fearless attitude was surprised in the least at what he accomplished on Sunday.

“As long as he wants to play, he’s always had the game for the PGA Tour,” said Landry, the Arkansas teammate who made such a great run at the 2016 U.S. Open. “It’s not set up for the Web.com Tour, it’s not set up for mini-tours. It’s set up for this tour only.

“He does everything good. He doesn’t have to do it great, he just does it really, really good, and it’s every week, and it’s consistent. He’s going to have a long, long career out here.”

Landry said he considers Cook’s greatest attribute as a player his driving. He drives the ball exceptionally, hits it straight, and isn’t overly long, but long enough to compete on this Tour. David Lingmerth, fellow PGA Tour winner and another former Arkansas teammate/housemate, says Cook’s best strength is his attitude.

“He’s just out here to try to beat everybody,” he said. “He’s not afraid of anyone. He’s got a great attitude for it, and it’s shown so far.”

Henley says Cook’s best asset is his “golf brain.” He likes to tell other players that he has “a 5-foot-7 Matt Kuchar” on his hands.

“This kid is going to be pounding around that lead all the time,” Henley said. “I’m just going to try to hang on. I think he’ll be around the lead a bunch. I mean, where’s the hole? Where’s the hole in that game?”

Those who know Cook said there really isn’t one. Time will tell. On Saturday, asked about Cook being in the lead, Davis Love III smiled and said, “Well, when you lead in every category, usually you’re doing good.” For a young man just trying to get to the PGA Tour a few months ago, Cook now has all kinds of opportunities on his plate. He has his Tour card through 2019-20, he’s in at Kapalua for January’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, he’s in The Players, will get into the invitationals, and oh, yes, come holiday time, he should be getting a little card in the mail inviting him to play in the Masters.

Cook went there to watch a practice round in 2008, and he told himself he’d never go back until he was playing in the actual tournament. Well, guess what, Austin Cook? You’re in.

After he signed his scorecard to make his victory official, and as he raced back to the 18th green with his wife and parents and friends for his first PGA Tour trophy presentation, a well-wishing standard bearer shouted out a passage that placed a nice bow around Cook’s week. The words were brief but quite fitting: “Enjoy your new life!”

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