PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Cochran's Successful Rookie Season

November 01, 2009

SONOMA, Calif. -- John Cook and Loren Roberts were the big winners Sunday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Cook claiming a runaway tournament victory and Roberts capturing the season-long Schwab points race and the $1 million annuity.

But senior rookie Russ Cochran, who finished a distant second place to Cook, wasn't complaining about his consolation prize of $255,000.

The left-hander from Kentucky, who was simply fighting to get in Champions Tour events early this season after starting 2009 with conditionally-exempt status, wrapped up the year in 17th place on the money list with $900,696. That total is more than $200,000 greater than his best season on the PGA Tour, 1991, when he won his lone tour title, the Centel Classic.

Cochran finished 2009 on a roll, with five top-10 finishes in his last six starts, earning an average of $97,227 per start. The success for Cochran, who turned 51 on Halloween, was in stark contrast to his futility after finishing T-7 in the Allianz Championship Feb. 15. It was three months before he got in his next tournament, the nadir coming when he failed to Monday-qualify for the AT&T Champions Classic outside Los Angeles in March.

"We only had three spots," Cochran recalled. "I shot 70. It was a difficult golf course. Missed a putt on the last hole. Went to a playoff. Chipped in on the first playoff hole. Guy makes about a 25-footer on top of me, and then he makes another 12- or 14-footer on the second hole to keep me out. [I was] thinking, if I don't separate myself soon, then it's very discouraging."

Cochran's year started to take on a different tone at the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick, where he shot 64-68 on the weekend and finished third. Things only got better after that.

"This year's just been fantastic for me," said Cochran. "I think the main thing I did this year was that I said I'm not going to be happy with a little bit of success. If I get an opportunity, I'm gonna play hard, and I stayed focused pretty much all year."

No one may start the 2010 Champions Tour season with a better attitude than Cochran, for whom winning seems like a logical next step.

-- Bill Fields