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July 30, 2008

Stewart Cink


CHRIS REIMER: Stewart Cink, thanks for joining us here at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational. Obviously this is a tournament that you've had some good success at, former champion. Just kind of talk about coming back to this event.
STEWART CINK: Well, I've always got very good memories from playing here. I had the win, but also just it's a great course to play on and compete on. It really brings the best out in all the golfers and brings the best golfers out to play. It's a great place to have a tournament, and it goes without saying, considering it's been a venue on the PGA TOUR for quite a while.

Q. What's special or what's difficult about this course that you can tell me?
STEWART CINK: Well, the course itself is difficult in that it's long and narrow. There's no tricks to it. It's not a real strategic type course, it's just you'd better execute your shots well if you want to shoot a low score here. The greens can be very difficult, too. This rain is going to dampen, literally, but also figuratively, the speed on the greens, because they were really fast, really fast. When the greens speeds are up here, it can be a very tough place to maneuver around the greens with your short game and your putting if you get out of position. So that will take some of the sting out of it. But still, by the end of the week we won't see a whole lot more rain, I don't think we're supposed to, so it could get back to playing really tough again. It's just a good course to measure yourself against the best players.

Q. You and some other players here have had kind of up-and-down experiences. For example, you won in '04, you were 41 in '05, won again in '06, and then tied for 56th, I guess. What I'm getting at is, is there something about this place where you can win or finish second and then there's something about this place you can finish 52th?
STEWART CINK: I think that's because there's not a whole lot of figuring out to play here. You don't come here with a game plan and think that the game itself is going to carry you through like at other courses. Like Zach Johnson is a good example, at The Masters when he laid up on all the par-5s and ended up winning, here you don't have a whole lot of holes that are risk-reward type holes, you just have to hit it in the fairways if your game is not on or you're hitting a little crooked and you're hitting it in the rough and you can't make birdies. That basically explains it.
When I lost in a playoff here I drove it really well and I had really solid thoughts in my swing and had good results.
Then last year and two years ago when I didn't have good finishes here, I hit it all over the place. You just can't expect to be competitive when you hit it in the rough here.

Q. Kind of along those lines also, but I mean, you have some guys coming in who are kind of hot, but can this place also neutralize them if it doesn't fit their eye, that kind of thing?
STEWART CINK: It can, yeah. It can neutralize, I guess, but the guy is hot for a reason. If a guy is coming in here and winning a lo, like Kenny Perry or Anthony Kim seem to be real confident right now and this course fits them even better because they feel like they can do what is required because they've done it so many times already this year and the memory is fresh.
This year the course is not set up probably as hard or as penal as it was last year. The rough is not nearly as high. It's in sort of an experimental phase with the rough, which I think it's going to be good. The course is real playable, and with the rain coming down now, I think it's going to be a lot more low-scoring course. Not 20-under maybe, but it's not going to be the really difficult type of scoring we've seen.

Q. What would you have put the odds on that somebody who was 47 years old could win a spot on the Ryder Cup team without having played in a major or a World Golf Championship.
STEWART CINK: Yeah, that would be almost impossible unless you're talking about a guy that came from someplace else and wasn't high enough ranked or whatever. Yeah, Kenny Perry is his own guy. He didn't want to go to the British, so he didn't go. In a way you have to admire that, that he didn't back down and change his schedule. But who knows how many more chances Kenny is going to have to win the British Open.
His game would be great over there just because he's doing so many good things.

Q. You talk about the best players in the world. Obviously Tiger is not playing and he's pretty much, for lack of a better word, dominated this course over the last few years. Does this open up the course a little bit for anybody else, or is it still business as usual for you guys?
STEWART CINK: Well, everybody will just move up one place from where they finished in the past (laughter).

Q. Talk a little bit about putting more emphasis on winning, because that seems to be a topic recently with what Jack weighed in on. If the percentage of the purse, say 50 percent, went to the winner versus 16, 18, whatever it is, to put a massive emphasis on winning, what would your reaction to that be?
STEWART CINK: I don't think that would make anybody try harder to win because everybody does what they can do to win. You can't do more than you do. I mean, I can't try harder to win than I'm already trying. So putting the purse higher in the winning position, that would make the winners richer, but it doesn't -- it wouldn't do anything to the competitiveness of the TOUR because there's not anybody trying to make money out here trying to finish third or fourth. Guys are trying to win. I'm sure there are guys out here getting established trying to earn their card, but players that are ranked highly that are trying to win this tournament every year and on the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, those guys out here, we're not trying to earn bucks out here anymore. We're trying to win, trying to play as well as we can and compete.
I mean, Tiger has set the standard now like it's never been set before. It's more difficult to win now -- not now since Tiger is hurt but in the Tiger Woods era. In a way Tiger has spoiled it for everybody because he makes it look so easy. But it's not easy, and money is not going to make everyone try harder because we're already doing everything we can do to try to win.
Are you talking about Jack Nicklaus?

Q. Yes.
STEWART CINK: I'm not aware of any comments he made because I've been kind of on Mars for about three or four weeks.

Q. He just talked about how there's so much money for guys that never win, that maybe if, to actually earn a living, they knew they had to actually win, it might change some things.
STEWART CINK: I don't know. I don't think I agree, because like I said, there's a relatively small percentage of players that are just trying to earn paychecks.
It's important because certain things are still based on money, but at the end of the day, everybody out here is driven by competitiveness, not by trying to earn money.

Q. As a Butch guy, have you seen enough of Phil? They've been together now a little over a year, maybe 15 months, to see whether there's been any improvement in any facet, whether a guy is playing at a different level or improved in a certain area?
STEWART CINK: I haven't played with him much in the last year. I really haven't played with him much. I think he made -- initially he made a big change, and you could tell right away his swing wasn't quite past parallel. But I really haven't paid attention close enough to see.
My hands are full with what I've got to do. I'm working on a lot of the same things that Mickelson does. It's hard work to change that and to feel comfortable on the golf course with it is hard. It's hard enough for me just to pay attention to my own self. I guess I don't have a very good answer for you.

Q. You could speak to experience on this since you don't have to deal with it this year, but what is it like going to this tournament and next week when you're kind of on that bubble for the Ryder Cup and you're trying to not think about it?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, it's hard, because you want to get on that team so bad. But you also know that the best way to get the job accomplished is to not be consumed by it. One shot is not going to make or break the team, your participation on the team, more than likely. But it's tough. I mean, I've been -- I think this is the first time I've really had the spot locked up for the Ryder Cup. It's a great feeling to know I'm going to be on the team and not have to worry about it. But also it drives you to try to play your best.
But I have not -- in my own experiences, I have not played my very best when trying to get in on the last week or two. This one used to be after, so it was the PGA and then I can't remember the year before.

Q. International or the Buick.
STEWART CINK: Yeah, I've had some good Internationals, but at the PGA I have not played my very best and finished Top 10 and gotten on the team because of that. I think it would be neat for somebody to play their way on the team like Woody Austin played his way on the Presidents Cup last year. So that would be a neat experience. But I think the guys on the bubble would probably be happy to see the result finishing behind them because you can go ahead and relax.
I did the last time, I think it was '04, when I got picked I won here the week after because I was so relieved it was over.

Q. Why did you not play better at the PGA in those situations?
STEWART CINK: I think I was trying to get that out of my mind. I was hitting shots with too many goals in mind instead of just trying to hit it close to the hole or down the fairway or knock it in the hole. I was trying to make the team with every shot. It sounds absurd, but in a way that's the way I was going about it.

Q. You could talk to a couple players that are kind of on that bubble, and they'll say that if you just play good golf, everything takes care of itself. But it's not that simple.
STEWART CINK: No, it's easy to say it, and they know it, it's true. But it's another challenge to actually go out there and walk the line to do it.

Q. Now that this tournament is before the PGA, does that make it easier to perform here or have no effect at all?
STEWART CINK: It doesn't -- I think it makes it harder to perform here, actually, for myself. Because there's really no better preparation for a tournament than a major. You play in a major, and after that you feel like you're pretty well prepared to play in any tournament. Coming here after it, this is a tough course and it's very similar to a lot of PGA courses, I felt prepared.
I missed the cut at the British, I took some time off, and my last tournament I made the cut in was Travelers, which is probably ancient history now to you guys. I won there, but I haven't made a cut since then.

Q. One of your victories came the week after the Masters as I recall.
STEWART CINK: Two of them, and one the week after the PGA and one the week after the British.

Q. Would you think that affects other players the same and are you unique in that?
STEWART CINK: It definitely affects everybody different because I've -- in fact, all my tournament wins have come the week after majors, including one on the Nationwide Tour. Yeah, I don't know if that's a good pattern or bad. As long as I keep on having wins, I'm okay with it. But eventually I'd like to try to shift it back a week and win a major. My timing has always been bad.
But yeah, I feel relieved and relaxed and really calm and just -- I feel good the week after majors, always have. I've tended to play a lot those weeks, and I've -- I don't know, just performed well.

Q. You'll be great on the Champions Tour because all their majors are back-to-back, and they've got about six of them, too.
STEWART CINK: Then I'll win the week after every one of them and hopefully I'll win six a year.

Q. How was Mars?
STEWART CINK: Mars can take many forms. I was just -- like you mentioned the comment by Jack, I had no clue what Jack said, not a clue.

Q. That was at Birkdale.
STEWART CINK: I was at Birkdale, I should have known that. Of course our television wasn't too good over there. I didn't find out about Michelle Wie getting disqualified until like two weeks after that. There's a lot of stuff I didn't know about. It's not like I was up in a cave or anything, I just didn't turn on the TV very much while I was off. I played golf a lot. My son is playing quite a bit, so I played golf with him, and my wife actually started playing some. So we played golf.
I was kind of keeping up my own game but I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on in the world of golf. So Mars was good, very good.

Q. Stricker made the point today that the one thing that's kind of different about the PGA he thought is that some of the nerves are a little less frayed by the time -- the Masters is the first one that really hits you, and frankly by the time you get to the PGA you're a little more acclimated. Any thoughts on that?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, I can see that. I mean, the Masters is going to fray your nerves no matter what it is because of the golf course. I think a lot of it has to do with the PGA being in August, which is sort of the dog days for everyone east of the Rockies and the golf courses are a little bit softer and a little bit stressed. They just don't have the same bite that the June U.S. Open or the April Masters has. The greens and everything can be so dry and hard that time of year. But in August, it's really hard to find anywhere that can really sustain that.
So I think that has something to do with it, too, that golf courses don't present quite the borderline fairness like the earlier majors do.

Q. Would you have guessed the majors would have gone the way they've gone this year, not so much Trevor but a guy winning a major with one good leg and another guy having to hold off Greg Norman?
STEWART CINK: No, the Greg Norman thing would have been probably the story in sports. It was a huge story that he was even competitive because he hasn't shown that he's been that competitive for the last few years. He hasn't played. I guess that shows you how mental the game of golf can be, that if you keep your body in good shape and you have the kind of mind Greg Norman had, I mean, he's a winner, always has been a winner, that you can come back. It was almost like Nicklaus winning the Masters back when he was 46. It would have taken that to a new level.

Q. How much week-to-week tinkering do you do with your 14 clubs, take out a 2-iron, throw in a hybrid or whatever the case may be? Seems like some guys are way more extreme than others and Tiger has like changed one club in 12 years, Phil goes with five wedges and no driver or two drivers, kind of different thoughts on that.
STEWART CINK: The main thing I do every week is the 5-wood and 2-iron. I use one of those, never use both of them. I always use one. It just depends on some tee shots or some par-5s or whatever. This is a 5-wood course, especially with the rain.
Then I also bring a lot of 60-degree wedges to the tournaments, like four or five because they all have a different balance because you get to a place that's got new sand and the bunkers are firm or whatever and you always need to change. I always try to use whatever I think is going to give me just the best contact on the ball in the bunkers and then sort of adapt all the other shots to that.
Right now I'm stuck on one 60-degree wedge I've been using for about four tournaments and I'll probably use it until something extreme happens. But I still bring the other ones along just in case.

Q. Do you ever use 64s?
STEWART CINK: No, I don't. I've got a couple at home but I've never had any success with them. My 60-degree wedge is really about 61 degrees anyway. I don't know, 14 clubs is the limit. I can't see where I can take one out if I add a 64 in there.

Q. Your explanations about the golf course for the PGA, is that also a reason why we have a lot of guys win their first major at a PGA?
STEWART CINK: It might be, because I think it's a little easier coming down the stretch at a tournament where the course is a little more forgiving because you don't have the disaster looming. Like at The Masters you've got disaster waiting on every hole. It's tough to come through the gauntlet there and win.
But I think the PGA, part of it is what I said, but also part of it, your question about the nerves being sort of -- if they're going to be frayed, they're already frayed, and they've already been sewn back together, so to speak. Everybody has been through the battles, and everybody is fighting a battle, whether it's to get their card or make the Ryder Cup team or finish high on the FedExCup, something is being fought for. And the major at the end of the year gives you a good chance to move up. So I don't know.

Q. When do you start thinking about the Masters?
STEWART CINK: When the West Coast is over usually.

Q. What do you see as the identity of the PGA Championship?
STEWART CINK: That's a tough question. I think they struggle a little bit about their identity based on the other majors. They do a good job. You can tell that the marketing department kind of -- you know, they spit out, what, Glory's Last Shot slogan a couple years ago. That's a marketing department sort of getting the old image machine going.
It's hard to say. It's the last major of the year. It happens right before football season starts, or in this case, I think it's -- the Hall of Fame is this weekend, so PGA is after football season starts.
It's tough to say that there's an identity because the U.S. Open definitely has the golf course as its identity, Masters goes without saying, British Open has the links, so the PGA really is the fourth as far as what their identity is, but it doesn't make it any less of a tournament. You still have to survive under the pressure of a major to win it, identity or not. They have a great tournament.

Q. It used to be match play was the identity, way back, 50 years. Can you imagine that being match play now? Tiger is off right now, so it's --
STEWART CINK: I don't know. It would be interesting to see a major come down to match play. To me I always thought that the U.S. Amateur should not be counted as a major because it is match play. The fact that you don't have to putt your balls in the hole every hole, something about being able to pick it up on the green just doesn't make it a major to me. That's my point, is in match play you're given putts.

Q. What's the lesson from what Norman did? Is that a freakish anomaly or is it a statement of sports science and in ten or so years 50-year-olds will win on the regular Tour?
STEWART CINK: I think it's what I alluded to earlier, Norman and his mind. He's got a champion's mind, and he's always been that way. He's always been an attacker and aggressive. It's been his downfall somewhat at times, but he's always been there wanting to win. And when he has a good week of hitting the ball well, and that golf course over there, you know, was so difficult with the conditions that you didn't have to hit the ball perfect and you didn't have to hit the right shot, you just needed to miss it in the right places. And he was doing that. He played a lot of good golf there, won the two majors.
I don't think it indicates that there's going to be 50-somethings winning on the TOUR with regularity any time soon, but I wouldn't put a 53-year-old out of the realm of possibility of winning.

Q. This is probably an unfair question to ask you, but who do you think has got the tougher job coming up, Paul Azinger with four picks, and you know who the guys he's probably looking at or the group he's looking from, or Faldo with two picks, in which that group right now consists of Sergio, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Colin Montgomerie and Justin Rose?
STEWART CINK: I think both teams have a messed-up system of picking the teams in the first place if that's the case. You know, I haven't been looking much at the list. I don't know who's in and who's out and who's on the bubble, so I can't talk about that. But I think Paul Azinger has a tougher job picking four. Not only do you have to pick your picks but then you have to stand by your picks. There will be endless questioning, as there always is, and four picks, there's a lot greater likelihood that one of those is going to end up being the goat, if there is a goat. He's got a tougher job, I think, picking four, because that's got to be the toughest job of the captain every time is the picks.

Q. Is there different pressure on you when you're a captain's pick? You were a late add a couple years ago.
STEWART CINK: I was asked that a lot. I was picked for both '04 and '06.

Q. You've got to kind of legitimize it?
STEWART CINK: In a way you do, but I think there's more pressure on a guy finishing 9th and 10th that just squeaks in because when you get picked you know the captain wants you on the team above the other guys that weren't picked. That's how I felt. Hal called and said I want you on the team, and I felt great about it. I didn't feel like I didn't have to qualify like you guys did. I felt like I was hand selected to be on the team because the captain thought I would be a good addition.
My first Ryder Cup I think I finished ninth going into it, and I hadn't played that well for the last few months, and then we had the delay for 9/11. I felt like I was like the lowest on the ladder.
So I think the pressure more lies on guys that qualify last than on the picks. Maybe this year with the picks, it could be that the picks might have a little extra pressure on them. There's a lot of pressure on everybody in the Ryder Cup, it doesn't matter if you're picked or qualify first.

Q. Do you think the policy board revisits the gender thing with the Michelle Wie deal this week, whether they ever pass a male-only clause?
STEWART CINK: You're just talking about the fact that she's playing in the tournament in Reno?

Q. Yeah, seems like the antenna is up for some guys that -- obviously they've got objections to that for various reasons.
STEWART CINK: I'm not too aware of really anybody specifically having objections, but I don't think -- no, I don't think the TOUR will ever pass a policy. I don't think there will ever be a written policy that there will be no females allowed to play golf out here. First of all, legally how can we do that?

Q. Well, LPGA did, women only.
STEWART CINK: Yeah, I guess. I think you get a lot of flack for going and playing in an LPGA tournament. If I did it, I'd get in trouble (laughter). It's a double standard that exists, but who cares? If Michelle was to play -- I hope she makes the cut in one of these tournaments and maybe that will satisfy her, or the parents or whoever are behind it (laughter). I don't know.

Q. Do you think this will get old?
STEWART CINK: Do I think it will get old?

Q. Is it already old?
STEWART CINK: I think it got old about 2004 (laughter). I mean, I don't want to joke around about Michelle Wie. She's got great talent, but I think -- I hope she satisfies her or, like I said, whoever is in need of satisfaction from her playing out there. I hope they're satisfied soon and she can just be allowed to grow up and play golf against her competitors. The LPGA Tour offers a lot of competitiveness out there, and she's obviously had her struggles. I just hope that she can be allowed to just blossom into the great player that she can be.

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