Cook wins first event in three years, claims $540,000 by winning RTO | NevadaAppeal.com
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Cook wins first event in three years, claims $540,000 by winning RTO

Jeremy Evans

Because of Jerry Kelly, Cook never made that flight.

Kelly triple bogeyed No. 16, dropping him to 15-under for the tournament, all the while Cook was sitting in the lockeroom, safe in second place at 17-under after firing a final round 64.

“I didn’t think it’d be enough,” Cook said. “At best, I thought I would get into a playoff.”

It was enough, barely.

Kelly almost eagled No. 18, which would’ve forced a playoff, but Kelly’s shot bounced once, nearly hit the pin, then rolled inches past the hole. After tapping in for birdie, he finished at 16-under.

Cook watched it all happen. Then he walked down to the 18th green and was presented with his 11th career PGA Tour event trophy and a check for $540,000.

Cook finished with a 17-under 271, breaking Notah Begay III’s 72-hole record at Montreux Golf and Country Club, which he set in 1999 (274), when he won the inaugural RTO.

“I’ve won them all kind of ways,” said Cook about his 11 tour victories, his last coming three years ago at the Byron Nelson Classic.

Kelly, meanwhile, is still looking for his first win.

Kelly was one shot ahead of 22-year old Bryce Molder going into the final round. Molder was in it early, then couldn’t find a way to make birdies. Same goes for Charles Howell III, another 22-year old, who was two shots back of Kelly. He shot a 1-over 73 to finish in fourth. Molder finished in third.

Everyone thought the two youngsters would be the ones keeping the 32-year old Kelly from finally winning a tournament, who’s now had seven top 10 finishes on tour this year. So Cook’s run was unexpected, to say the least.

He started the day six shots back of Kelly at 9-under. He eagled the par-5 4th, his third eagle of the tournament. On the front nine, he was 6-under. He made eight birdies and two bogeys in his final round.

“I played so horrible on Saturday,” said Cook, who’s win marked the largest deficit overcome for a victory on tour this year. “Once I got of off to a good start, I just kind of kept doing the right things. One of the things you learn after 22 years is to leave each hole behind you.”

That’s what Kelly was trying to do on the par-3 16th. Even more so, he was trying to get it over with. His tee shot landed in the thick rough on the backside of the green. Then disaster struck. Three duffed chips out of the rough finally set him up with a three-foot putt to make double bogey, which he missed. Up until then, Kelly, the tour’s eighth-ranked putter, hadn’t missed a short putt all day.

“I certainly didn’t think I wasn’t going to miss a 2 1/2-footer,” Kelly said. “And I really set up for the chips well and stroked them well, I just went underneath them. It’s painful lessons. It’s one of the things that makes you hate and love the game.”

Cook agrees, because he’s won and lost under similar unfoldings. At the 1992 British Open, Cook three-putted No. 17 for par, then bogeyed No. 18 to lose to Nick Faldo by stroke. Then in 1997 at Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Cook and Fred Couples were tied going into the final two holes. Couples tee shot on No. 17 landed in the water, and he ended up taking a triple bogey. Cook finished par-par to win.

“It’s tough to watch, it happens to everyone,” Cook said of Kelly’s collapse. “I’ve been there, too. But his time is coming.”