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John Cook atop Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am after two rounds

LUTZ — John Cook has a simple strategy for playing golf tournaments.

"I don't like making bogeys," he said. "I don't handle stress very well."

Saturday's second round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am was stress-free for Cook.

After starting with six straight pars on the par-71 TPC Tampa Bay course, Cook rattled off six birdies on his next eight holes and finished with 6-under 65. He was 11 under after two days and ahead of first-round leader Russ Cochran by one shot. Jay Don Blake was three back at 8 under and Tom Pernice and Joey Sindelar loomed five shots back.

Kenny Perry, who was third at 4 under on Friday, shot 2-over 73 and fell to a tie for 17th.

Cook's two-round total of 131 tied a tournament record. Bruce Fleisher did it in 2000 and 2002 and Mark Wiebe in 2008. Fleisher won the tournament in 2000.

If Cook holds on in today's final round, he snaps a dubious streak. He is 0-for-106 in tour-sanctioned events in Florida. He is 0-for-11 in the state on the 50-and-over Champions Tour. In 2007, Tom Watson broke an 0-for-93 Florida slump when he won this tournament.

Like Cook's first round, when he had five straight birdies on the front nine, he got hot again Saturday and started shooting up the leaderboard. He birdied the seventh hole to start his streak. Then Cook drained a 25-footer on No. 9, an 8-footer on 10 and had tap-ins for birdies on 12, 13 and 14.

At one point Cook drew three shots clear before Cochran closed the gap with some late birdies.

"If I get the right situations, I can be very streaky," Cook said. "I'm glad I'm streaky that way and not the other way. And I did leave a couple (of birdies) out there, believe it or not."

Cook had the day's low round and is trying to win for the second time this year. Cochran had the low round Friday and is paired with Cook in the final group.

Cochran shot a bogey-free round Friday and had only one bogey Saturday.

"I'm very happy to be 10 under," Cochran said. "It wasn't anything too exciting. It was one of those days where you couldn't be super aggressive. You had to battle the wind all day.

"I've been all over the charts this year. I've had a pretty good putting year at times and the driver was a little bit off. I drove it fantastic (at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic) and couldn't do much else."

Blake shot 3-under 68 in the morning. He led much of the day, until Cook got hot and Cochran started making some putts. Blake took advantage of the calm conditions in the morning.

"I knew the greens would be a little softer and I could be more aggressive," Blake said. "I started out birdieing and got to 3 under real quick. Then the winds started picking up and you had to be more conservative."

In his Champions Tour career, Cook has had the outright lead three times. He has won one of those tournaments, the 2009 Charles Schwab Cup Champion­ship in Sonoma, Calif.

He said he welcomed the challenge of trying to hold on today, and he's going to keep an eye on his position all day long.

"I don't get the mind-set that you don't look at the board," Cook said. "How do you know if you can win or not? That's crazy."

John Cook atop Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am after two rounds 04/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 11:39pm]
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