Cook sizzles with 8-under 64 for CareerBuilder lead
LA QUINTA, Calif.
Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
“Kip said, ‘Let’s finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.’ We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, ‘Let’s just do the same thing. Let’s get this line right and if you get the line right it’s going in.’”
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West.
Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn’t get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.
“I know that I wouldn’t have wanted to play the Stadium today,” Cook said. “I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.”
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
“Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,” Cook said. “Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.”
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
“I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,” Cook said. “I’ve been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn’t play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.”
He’s making his first start in the event.
“I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,” Cook said.
Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA Tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.
“Piller’s a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,” said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. “Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.”
Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys — three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
“A little bit of a survival day,” Rahm said.