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Cook: Keep hot new drivers out of the game


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000

PALM HARBOR -- When Callaway Golf announced Thursday that it would begin selling the ERC II driver in North America, it set off a golf equipment controversy. The club has a thin face that allows the ball to travel up to 30 yards longer.

Clubs like it are legal on the European Tour, which is governed by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. However, the more explosive driver is banned by the United States Golf Association.

John Cook, playing in this week's Tampa Bay Classic, is openly against the new driver. He feels the PGA and R&A should be on the same page.

"We should be playing by one set of rules," Cook said. "This is the professional leagues here. This isn't Joe Regular on a Sunday afternoon. This is what we do.

"To keep the integrity of the game intact you have to abide by the rules. The USGA is our governing body, and I feel the governing body of golf and the R&A needs to step up. They need to say no, it's not right. We've got to limit this. I mean, it's ridiculous right now. In baseball, you don't go to Toronto and use aluminum bats. You have to have uniform rules."

As it stands, European Tour players can earn PGA status points by playing in USGA-sanctioned events like the British Open with the longer drivers.

Cook hopes the ERC II, which is endorsed by Arnold Palmer, never makes it on the PGA Tour. If it does, he fears it will make courses like Copperhead extinct.

"It's testing the limits now," Cook said. "We're already at the limit. You've got a 7,200-yard, par-71 golf course here. It's as long as you can make a golf course. It's playing nicely, it's not playing short at all. I'm hitting 4-, 5-, 6-irons in. And I don't mind that. But you can't make these golf courses obsolete and go further than that because you'll run out of room."

BAGGING AUTOGRAPHS: Frank Jannette traveled more than two hours from Sarasota to see Lee Janzen. He brought a 1993 red, white and blue official Ryder Cup golf bag, one he bought from a friend for $600.

Jannette, an avid sports memorabilia collector, has 11 signatures on the bag from players on the 1993 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He was only missing Janzen and he thought Loren Roberts. But when Janzen signed the bag, he reminded Jannette that Roberts wasn't on the 1993 team, but John Cook and Corey Pavin were.

"Well, guess I gotta go to some more tournaments," said Jannette, who can't attend the final round to get Cook to sign.

Jannette has traveled to PGA tournaments in Orlando, Naples, Miami and now here to get the bag signed. A one-time taxi squad player for the AFL's New York Titans (now Jets), He said he has spent close to $100,000 on sports memorabilia. "I originally bought the bag to use," Jannette said. "But then my back got too bad and I couldn't golf anymore. I was in Orlando for the Buick tournament a few years back and Payne Stewart saw the bag. He asked if I wanted him to sign it. It started from there.

"Some guy offered me $15,000 for it. But I don't want to get rid of it yet."

TRIUMPHANT RETURN: Andrew Magee took five weeks off after the Canadian Open because of surgery on his left knee to repair a meniscus tear. The Tampa Bay Classic is his first tournament since the surgery, and he got into contention Saturday with a 5-under-par 66. He's 6 under.

"I didn't play any golf," Magee said. "I didn't hit. I couldn't walk. It helps give you perspective and get hungry to come back out here. That's the longest I've ever been off in my life on the Tour, 16 years. You almost fear you forget how to compete, but once you make a few birdies it comes back right away. You want to keep it going."

Magee said he spent his time off driving his two children to and from school in Phoenix. Aside from the time away from the game, Magee also was worried about playing Innisbrook's Copperhead course. He never played in the JCPenney Classic, so this was his first look at the course.

"I think I'm the only non-Floridian on the scoreboard," Magee said. "All those guys have played the mixed team all those years. There's some really demanding golf holes, very demanding. I'm thrilled with my round."

FRONT-RUNNER: First-round leader Mike Hulbert summed up Saturday's 4-over round of 75, which put him in a tie for 50th at 1 over, in two words:

"I'm whipped."

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