Pain and Momentum on Tour

By admin December 30, 2014 00:56

Written by Interview with John Cook by Dan Poppers

Virtually all PGA Tour players “play through pain” says 11-time PGA Tour winner John Cook.

GolfNews Magazine: Thinking of the injuries in your career that includes a shoulder injury, and your wrist injury in ‘82 that didn’t completely get resolved until ‘89, how many Tour players play hurt?

JOHN COOK: Almost everybody has something going on. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in the trailer everyday getting stretched or getting worked on. Usually it’s back, shoulder, or neck types of little pains. And small injuries in hands, wrists, and elbows. We can’t afford to miss a whole lot, so we play hurt more than a lot of people think. One of the misconceptions is that we “don’t get hurt.” Granted we’re not going to break a leg or we’re not going to separate a shoulder, but we’re going to play with discomfort a lot.
The game is played mostly by feel and not by aggression; there’s nobody there to back you up or substitute for you. You have to keep playing; you have to go on. I can’t remember the last time playing pain free. But that’s the way we do it.

GNM: Is this somewhat typical?

COOK: Oh, yeah. There are many guys that are basically pain free from major complications, but still have little tweaks, little aches and pains. We have to make X amount of dollars to continue our career. And that’s the way our system is set up. You just don’t show up during the week and be guaranteed money. That’s not the way it is. And that’s the way it should be. You just have to play with some pain.

GNM: So looking at these beautiful golf swings on television — it’s a misconception that the body is flowing pain free?

COOK: A guy might have bursitis in the shoulder, a C2, C3 disk problem, or something else wrong with his spine…

GNM: It doesn’t really show.

COOK: Right. It’s amazing the amount of pain players can play with. Golf is an unnatural game with an unnatural swing, so you’re fighting the way your body works. That’s why we have our trainers out on Tour. They do such a good job; they get you ready to play no matter how you’re feeling. Given enough time, they treat and rehab you and eliminate a lot of what’s going on.

GNM: I interviewed Payne Stewart many years ago toward the end of his slump. We chatted about his physical health and mental outlook, and I asked him how he felt about not being in the forefront for awhile. He said, ‘That’s in the past. I am ready. Watch what’s going to happen. You’re going to see me win tournaments. There’s no doubt about it.” Shortly thereafter, that’s exactly what he did including winning the U.S. Open. Your comments.

COOK: You could see it coming. Payne was working out a lot. He was in the [fitness] trailer everyday. He was stretching, getting in shape. He re-programmed not only his outer body, but also his inner body. He was ready to play. He choose to create and maintain the momentum necessary to be a champion.

You come to a point sometimes where you do what you need to do to get better. Until you actually see the end and are going to retire, until you see that day coming, you work as hard as you can. And that’s what Payne did. That’s what’s so admirable about his last couple of years.

I don’t think anybody was as gritty as he was. The way he struck the ball was good, but wasn’t great. He swung the club with a nice beautiful rhythm, but it wasn’t mechanically great. But he got the job done. Payne wasn’t afraid of anything, especially a major championship. You could see all that coming. He was preparing to add more victories to his already great career.

GNM: Comparing your ’99 performance which you’ve described as one of the worst years you’ve ever had versus your ’92 performance (3 victories, 8 Top 10 finishes, 3rd on the money list with $1.165 million), that you’ve identified as one of the best years you’ve ever had, describe the differences?

COOK: A couple. One, I took advantage of every situation I had in ’92. I started out the year winning at The Hope, playing good at Pebble Beach, and then winning in Hawaii. Right off the bat. Good things happened at the right time. I remember the winter of ’91 really working hard on my game.
Two, along with being prepared, lucky things have to happen. I got the lucky breaks at the right time. I made putts at the right time. I hit good quality golf shots at the right time. I got on that early and rode it on out. I gained momentum right from the start.
I played well every time out, with the exception of maybe Bay Hill and Jacksonville right in a row where I missed the cuts. And then I came back and played well right after that.

I hit good quality golf shots in stretches in ’92. Last year, in ’99 I didn’t not do that. I hit some good golf shots, but I didn’t hit good quality golf shots in a series where you gained any momentum at all. I had zero momentum the whole year.
In ’92, the momentum was there. I never wavered. If I hit one bad golf shot, I came back with a great one, made a putt, saved something and off I went.

GNM: What can be done to intentionally create momentum or to predict when momentum is diminishing so you can rekindle it?

COOK: It all comes down to real focus. The only thing you can create is being prepared to play both mentally and physically. If you’re focused on each shot with no outside distractions and you can commit yourself 100% to what you are doing, that’s what starts momentum. Just free it up and let it go.

As far as momentum goes, just hitting good quality golf shots (you don’t have to stuff it every time) on difficult holes under difficult situations; that’s when you start gaining momentum.

GNM: Jack Nicklaus says that he remembers all the best shots he has ever made. He actually has the visual memory, the “tape” in his head, and is able to bring those shots to his memory when similar shot situations confront him. Do you subscribe to that?

COOK: Absolutely.

John Cook, 55 as of October 4th, winner of 11 PGA Tour events including the 1992 and 1997 Bob Hope Classic, is now playing on The Champions Tour.

By admin December 30, 2014 00:56