Tour pro tunes up for brunt of season

By: Jeff Krupsaw
Published: Sunday, December 16, 2018
Professional golfer Austin Cook is covered with sensors to capture mechanics of his swing as he hits a golf ball on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at HipKnee Arkansas in Little Rock.
Professional golfer Austin Cook is covered with sensors to capture mechanics of his swing as he hits a golf ball on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at HipKnee Arkansas in Little Rock.

Austin Cook's whirlwind life is slowing down to pick up a new passenger, but he won't be parked for long.

Cook's wife Crys is due to deliver the couple's first child in mid-January, and Cook said he plans to be there for the birth of his daughter and the first few weeks of her life.

Austin Cook glance

COLLEGE Arkansas

HOMETOWN Jonesboro




TOP 10s 5

TOP 25s 16

PGA CAREER $3.4 million


NOTEWORTHY Cook has played 4 events in the 2018 portion of the 2019 PGA season, making 3 cuts and earning $294,410. … He ranks 55th on the FedEx points list and is No. 112 in the Official World Golf Rankings. … His next start is expected to come on Jan. 31-Feb. 3 at the Phoenix Open. … Cook participated in an UAMS orthopaedics research study to better understand movement patterns and muscle use in golfers. The project is currently focused on testing golfers, age 55 and above, who golf regularly and have less than a 15 handicap.

It helps that Cook's rookie season on the PGA Tour was a successful one -- in terms of earning money and security -- more than $2.4 million and a 2-year exemption that came with a victory 13 months ago.

"The situation I'm in this year," Cook said. "I want to be there for her, my first child."

Cook, 27, said he doesn't know how becoming a father will alter his life as a second-season PGA Tour player, though he has heard stories from fellow pros.

"You're playing for a bigger picture," he said. "It'll be harder, because it won't just be me and my wife. I'll have a little girl to support.

"I'm looking forward to it, and eventually when they get to travel on the road with me, it'll be fun. ... It'll be a big learning process, but it will be fun."

Learning quickly and enjoying the fruits of success have been two key components of Cook's life since he turned professional after graduating from the University of Arkansas in December of 2013 with a degree in biology.

Just like Friday afternoon when University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences orthopaedic researchers hooked 78 retro reflective markers to him at HipKnee Arkansas Foundation to study the movement patterns of an elite golfer, Cook brought a smile and hearty enthusiasm.

"It looks like I'm going to be a video game," Cook said, when watching his computerized outline in action.

He might not be ready to supplant Tiger Woods as a cover boy for PGA Tour golf games, but Cook became a force in his rookie season, competing in three of four majors, while just missing the 30-man field for the Tour Championship, won by Woods in late September.

He made 24 of 29 cuts, had 8 top-25 finishes and 3 top 10s on his way to being one of the five finalists for Rookie of the Year honors.

Playing with Woods in the final round of the Northern Trust on Aug. 26 was a social media moment for Cook, who had his picture taken with Woods after shooting a 2-over 73 to tie for 60th in the opening tournament of the Tour playoffs.

Cook said he was more nervous playing with Woods for the first time than he was during his victory at the RSM Classic in November of 2017.

"Just because of who I was playing with," Cook said.

Consider that Cook, born in 1991, was 6 when Woods won the 1997 Masters, the first of his 14 major titles.

"He was actually very talkative, very genuine," Cook said. "He said my name before I had a chance to introduce myself."

Cook played in the 2015 Houston Open as a Monday qualifier during a stretch when he made more than $500,000 and nearly earned his PGA Tour card as a player with no status. It took him two more years for Cook to earn his Tour card, and he wasted no time securing his tenure by winning the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Ga.

The victory, at the beginning of the 2018 wraparound season, allowed Cook to plan out his schedule and adjust it once Crys became pregnant, hire a full-time caddie (Kip Henley), an agent, a swing coach, a personal trainer and sponsors, like Oakley.

Cook, 5-7, 160 pounds, has played with some of the physical giants in the game, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and newcomer Cameron Champ.

Cook will never hit it as far, but he is getting caught up in the fitness craze that has overrun professional golf.

Cook said it makes sense for him to participate in studies like the one undertaken by UAMS orthopaedic specialists -- Dr. Erin Mannen, research assistant Andrew Tackett and Dr. Anna Cecilia Severin.

"I do think it's important to understand how the body moves, so you can max your body, or your swing, to what you're body is capable of," he said. "I do a really good job of getting everything out of my swing that I can, with my lag, my hip turn. It all starts from the ground up. If your hips and everything move well, you can explode a little faster."

Cook said he needs to get every ounce of power he can squeeze out of his body to compete in a future he sees dominated by 360-yard bombers.

"The guys who are natural athletes are going to have a huge advantage," said Cook, who had a plastic club in his hands at age 2 while growing up on RidgePointe Country Club in Jonesboro. "We're going to be having a lot more explosive athletes coming through the game than we are used to."

That's why Cook works out four times a week, sets aside at least 40 minutes preparing his body before even hitting balls in his pre-round warmup, and why he continues to try to increase swing speed, which touches 113 mph on occasion.

Cook said he's hoping to reach higher numbers, like hitting his 6-iron 195 yards instead of 185, when he returns to the Tour at the Phoenix Open in early February.

Fitness, Trackman technology and body mechanics are all part of the equation.

"This is our tool," Cook said of the body. "The clubs help, but our tool, ultimately, is our body, and if it's not functioning properly, we can't play well."

Sports on 12/16/2018


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