By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- John Cook began the final round of the 73rd Senior PGA Championship with a five-stroke deficit but one thought in mind.
"I just thought that if I could put a little pressure on early," he said, "you never know what would happen."
Unfortunately, despite feeling "fantastic" on the range, and striking the ball really well, Cook had trouble executing his plan.
Two early bogeys, which at one point had him trailing eventual champion Roger Chapman by eight shots, put Cook in a deficit he was not able to overcome. In fact, though his belief in his game wasn't wavering, he saw any chance of winning starting to wane.
But then Cook was able to eagle the par-5 fifth hole to trim the lead a bit -- and more importantly, get his game going in the right direction.
"I hit a real nice drive at five. I had 240 to the front, downwind. Perfect hybrid. Hit it right at it," he explained. "I said, 'this is it.' This is going to be, I'm either going to get back in this game or it's going to be a day where it could be very frustrating.' And I said just step up and be a man and hit a shot. And I hit it right at it."
With Chapman playing steady, and at times, spectacular golf, Cook found himself trailing by nine shots after eight holes of final-round play. Cook knew he had to get some help and make a move to have a chance.
"I told Tommy, my caddie, on the ninth hole, 'We have got a tournament within a tournament here, '" he said. "Roger's (Chapman) thing is going to play out as it's going to play out. We have to win this other tournament because guys were shooting 63s and 62s and 64s all over the place."
Cook's words proved more than prophetic as he made three birdies in the next six holes and Chapman gave two shots back. Cook left the 14th green trailing by only four. There was still a chance. But Cook's putter couldn't catch the fire he needed as he finished with a string of five straight pars to leave him in second place, two shots behind Chapman, who bogeyed his final two holes.
"I had a good chance at 12," Cook explained, "Five footer -- missed it. On 15, missed about a five-footer. I had my chances."
And though disappointed that he's not going home with the Alfred S. Bourne trophy, Cook's feelings on the week were unabashedly enthusiastic.
"I hit it great this week, I really did," he brimmed.
"From the moment we stepped on the golf course and played the front nine on Monday afternoon, I said from tee to green this is phenomenal. And someone's going to win the trophy at the end of the week and 100 guys are going to eliminate themselves already," he added. "And we might as well not be one of those guys. Because I was hitting it too good and I was thinking clearly. I didn't beat myself up this week, which was good. So I'm happy with that. That's a big stride for me."
Cook's 273 total is the lowest total score for a non-winner in the Senior PGA Championship.