Rookie Austin Cook takes home first PGA Tour victory at RSM Classic

Chris Kirk and Brian Gay have played 705 more PGA Tour events than their final-round playing partner, Austin Cook. But it was Cook, in just his 14th PGA Tour event, who got the four-stroke win at the RSM Classic on Sunday. He took home more money on Sunday than he's earned in his entire career.

Cook earned it, too. He didn't back into it. He didn't take advantage of somebody else's mistake. He just rolled out in the final official round on the PGA Tour this year, shot a 67 and took the thing home at 21 under to J.J. Spaun's 17 under. Cook's spoils include a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a ticket to the Tournament of Champions to start 2018.

"I slept terrible last night," Cook told Golf Channel. "It means so much. Walking up 18 there, you always think you can do it, but just being able to come out here and perform and get a W, it feels unbelievable.

"I knew it was going to be a grind all the way to the end with this wind. When I got to the (downwind holes) I was a little more comfortable and knew I could -- not really coast in -- but play good golf."

There was a lot of good golf played this week. Cook made just two bogeys on the week and only missed four fairways over 72 holes. He's always had the talent -- in 2015, he had three top-11 finishes despite not having any status on the PGA Tour -- but he has clearly matured mentally, something he has touched on all week.

"Being able to stay in the moment and keep my head level," Cook told Golf Channel as the reason for his win. "Whenever something bad happened, I was able to brush it off and stay in the moment. The nerves and everything on the inside, it wasn't stress free. I got too far ahead of myself (in the past) and pressed a little bit. I've learned from that and now I've been able to play my game and let golf happen."

He joins Mackenzie Hughes as back-to-back first time PGA Tour winners of this event.

Golf Channel

Cook is a graduate of the Tour, like Hughes was last year, who is playing on the PGA Tour for the first time with his official card. He said earlier this week that the Tour really prepared him well for the big circuit, even if he'd already had moments of greatness earlier in his career.

"I think they're doing a really good job of just kind of making the -- they call it the path to the PGA Tour, and they're doing a really good job of that," said Cook. "I think the is only going to grow and every guy that comes off of that tour is going to be even more capable and ready to win out here."

That has become clear with the number of Tour graduates that have won fall events.

Golf Channel

But now Cook can set his sights even higher. He will be exempt through September 2020 and will get to re-shape his 2018 schedule based on this win. His talent is clearly immense. It remains to be seen whether he can reach the Xander Schauffele or Daniel Berger level of 20-something success, but what we saw this weekend was incredibly impressive. Just 14 starts into his PGA Tour career, and he's already a winner. 

This game has a way of beating folks down. The years are a grind, and far more often than not, you lose. So to see the utter joy on Cook's face after the win was a delight for those in attendance and those who watched on TV. It was a terrific way to end the 2017 calendar year and something sweet to bounce us into 2018.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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