John Cook says a friend keeps reminding him to finish like a champion. And he's been telling himself to trust his golfing instincts more after several disappointing finishes this year.
He did both Sunday, closing with a 4-under 68 to win the Administaff Small Business Classic, Cook's third career Champions Tour title and first of the season.
"I haven't really walked off the 54th hole or 72nd hole of our weeks with a real good taste in my mouth until today," said Cook, 52, an 11-time winner on the regular PGA Tour.
Cook shot an 11-under 205 and held off Jay Haas and Bob Tway for a two-shot victory at The Woodlands Country Club's Tournament Course.
Cook lost to Mike Reid in a playoff in August at the Jeld-Wen Tradition in Oregon, one of the Champions Tour majors, then was fifth two weeks ago at the Senior Players Championship, where he faded in the final round.
"I've had trouble finishing events," he said. "I was getting ahead of myself. Today, I just didn't do that. I wanted to make sure I trusted what I was thinking coming down the stretch. And that's all you can do. And I hit some good quality shots coming down the stretch.
"Just go ahead. Trust it. You make good golf swings. You know what it does. And I did that today."
Cook was two shots behind first- and second-round leader Dan Forsman when play began Sunday. He started birdie-bogey, but birdies at Nos. 5 and 9 got him to within one shot of Forsman. He got to 10 under, still a shot back, with a birdie at 12, then claimed a share of the lead when Forsman had a bogey on the same hole. He took control after Forsman had a disastrous triple bogey at the par-3 14th and pulled away with his birdie on 17.
Water comes into play on both the 17th, where Cook birdied, and 18th, where he made par.
"On 18, I hit one of my best drives of the week," he said, assessing winds by looking at flags blowing toward him from an adjacent driving range and figuring he didn't want to leave his shot short.
"I trusted what I was seeing," he said.
Then he two-putted for par, putting the pressure on Haas, playing two groups behind him.
"Down the stretch, I'm very proud of that," Cook said. "One of my friends says: Finish like a champion. I haven't done that this year. I think I did that today."
Haas was bidding for a victory in his third consecutive start. He was one stroke off the lead going into the final round, shot a 71 that included three birdies on the back nine but couldn't offset an early double bogey when he went in the water at No. 7. He had late chances to tie but a putt for birdie on No. 17 lipped out. Then his drive at 18 landed in the rough just short of the water guarding the green, and his approach to the green wound up far on the back fringe. When his more than 30-foot birdie attempt slid past the hole, Cook was the winner.
"Overall, it's fun to be in the hunt," said Haas. "I'm a little disappointed that it didn't finish off better. But I was there and had a chance."
Tway, who shot a 70, started two shots off the lead Sunday, got close but never could catch the leaders. He had one bogey and three birdies but closed out the final round with four straight pars. The eight-time winner on the PGA Tour joined the Champions Tour earlier this year after turning 50. His previous best finish was a sixth-place tie a month ago at the Greater Hickory Classic in North Carolina.
Forsman was cruising Sunday and at 11 under through 13 holes. His run ended with the triple bogey at No. 14 where he put his tee shot in the water. He finished with a 73 to tie for fourth at 8 under with 2007-08 winner Bernhard Langer (69) and Tom Lehman (68).