Originally created 05/19/00

Cook takes Colonial lead with late eagle



FORT WORTH, Texas -- Maybe the late eagle will prove to be just what John Cook needed to turn his struggling season around.

At least the impressive shot gave him the first-round lead Thursday in the Colonial, where his 4-under-par 66 put him a stroke ahead of a group of eight players.

Cook holed a 9-iron shot from 127 yards for an eagle-2 on his 15th hole, the 393-yard 6th at Colonial Country Club. That gave him sole possession of the lead, which he saved by getting up-and-down for par from off the fringe on the final hole.

"It was 12 feet short and then spun toward the hole. It kind of went in like a putt," Cook said of the eagle. "From what I've been seeing this year, I could see that thing bounce over the green."

Keith Clearwater, whose good play on the Buy.com Tour has gone virtually unnoticed, had birdies on the final three holes for his 67 and a share of second place.

Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, David Toms, Len Mattice, David Frost, Mike Weir and Greg Kraft also shot 67s. In all, 25 players broke par and were within four strokes of the lead.

"This is not a shock. It's only because I've not been out here regularly that you haven't seen my face, but I've been playing good golf and make a lot of progress," said Clearwater, the 1987 winner. "This is an arena where it can be evidenced a little bit greater."

Cook has made the cut in just three of 13 tournaments this year. The 66 matched his best round of the year, which came in the first round of the Sony Open in January en route to a 22nd-place finish.

"If anybody has some answers for me why this year has been so bad, I'd be happy to listen," said Cook, who got the last of his 10 PGA Tour victories in the 1998 GTE Byron Nelson Classic. "I've worked harder this year than I ever have and gotten zero."

On a windy day at Colonial Country Club, Cook made a 15-foot par putt on his opening hole, the 404-yard 10th, that he said settled him into his round. After that, he went for the center of most greens.

"I took the approach that if I don't like the situation, I was hitting to the center of the green and taking my lumps," Cook said. "When you get your green lights on this golf course, you go for it."

And one of those came at No. 6, playing into the wind.

Clearwater is trying to regain his playing privileges on the PGA Tour by playing on the Buy.com Tour, where has the second-best scoring average and is ranked 14th on the money list through seven events. He is only playing this week because Colonial invites all of its past champions.

Toms, who has made 10 straight cuts, had birdies on the 470-yard 5th hole and the 457-yard 14th, two of the three longest par 4s on the 7,080-yard course. Frost had three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine, and Mattice was 5-for-5 in sand saves.

There were wind gusts of 25 mph and more throughout the day, which changed the approach for most players and kept the scores from getting too low.

"The pins most of the time are receptive to high shots. But you can't hit high shots today," said Joel Edwards, among those at 68. "You kind of just have to knuckle it under the wind and take your chances. It makes it very, very difficult to get it close."

Edwards is back on the PGA Tour for the first time since 1997 after finishing second on last year's money list of the Nike Tour, the predecessor to the Buy.com Tour.

Clearwater said the wind, which made a one- to two-club difference for him the first 15 holes, all of a sudden calmed as he approached the end of his morning round. He took advantage, starting with his best shot of the day.

His 6-iron tee shot on the 188-yard 16th stopped 4 feet from the hole. Clearwater then ended with two more challenging birdies, holing a 12-foot putt on the 383-yard 17th and a 15-footer on the 427-yard finishing hole.