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April 15, 2009

Stewart Cink


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Stewart Cink to the interview room. Stewart is a two-time past champion of this event, 2000 and 2004 and has five top-10 finishes here. Start off with general comments about this event and your thoughts coming into this year?
STEWART CINK: Well, I'd have to say it's for sure one of my favorite tournaments on the Tour, no question about that. Very enjoyable to be here.
It's hard to say whether the level of enjoyment and just relaxation has led to two wins or two wins has led to that feeling. It's hard to say. I don't really care. Either way they're both there. And I'm happy to be back again to this great place, it's awesome.

Q. You talk about the relaxation, compared to last week, every year it seems like that's the pressure cooker, and this is where you blow off steam. Even if you hadn't won twice here, would you continue to come here because of that kind of sense of relaxation that this tournament brings?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, there's no question I'd be here every time. I think I missed the first three of my career here, '97, '98, '99. For various reasons I couldn't play. When I finally got here for the first time, it was like what have I been doing not being here? This is awesome.
So, yeah, I was joking a little bit earlier, but that's led to me feeling good here and having a couple of wins and a lot of success. If it hadn't translated into the success, it wouldn't stop me from being here. I haven't won the Colonial. There are a lot of tournaments I love that I haven't won. The British Open is one I've loved playing in; I haven't cracked the top 40 except once. It's a great feeling just to be here playing on the course. Everything about it I just enjoy being here. I like the way the greens are. I like the way the tee shots face and set up to your eye. I like the way -- places to go, out to get dinner. And I even like the no see 'ems.

Q. There's been a lot of guys that have won multiple times here. This golf course compared to other ones, does this golf course set up for certain guys more so than other courses where you have a lot of multiple winners?
STEWART CINK: Well, that's a good question. I think what this course does is it puts people into two camps psychologically: You either get into the camp where you feel like you're in jail because of the trees and how close everything is and the small greens or you feel like your goal is well defined by a smaller target. I think I go in the second camp, so I just feel at ease.
A lot of players, maybe they don't play here -- I know one of my good friends just doesn't like to come here and play because he feels like good shots end up behind trees too often and it psyches him out. That kind of thing to me is part of this golf course and is a challenge.
I think that's why you see players that get comfortable and they get into the good camp where they feel like they're focused and to have success year after year, like Davis or Boo, I think he's won the last two, and I've had a couple, really. So that's where I think the golf course divides players.

Q. Is there another course on Tour where the greens are consistently as small as this one?
STEWART CINK: No, there's really not, as far as actual size. Some courses where the greens get really firm, the greens play small because you have such a small area to hit to, like Augusta National. Huge trees but tiny pin placements. But for green sizes, these are the smallest.

Q. A lot of people talk about the grain on these greens, is that because they're Bermuda? Do you see that elsewhere, as far as the grain?
STEWART CINK: The greens are a little different texture here than other places. And they're Bermuda, yes, it's under there somewhere, but this time of year there's no Bermuda out there; it's all rye. And you're putting on grass that typically doesn't have much grain in there. But here the rye they use has grain, and you do have to factor it in. It's pretty easy to see, normally. It's not like in Florida or Hawaii where you know the green goes a certain direction. And if the hills go one way and the grain is going the other way, you have to figure out which one is going to win out. Here you pretty much know the grain goes downhill.

Q. What's the state of your game right now? Obviously you feel pretty confident coming in here. Do you feel like you're ready to challenge for a third one?
STEWART CINK: Well, that's one great thing about coming here, I always seem to get that feeling every time I step on the grounds, I feel like I've got a chance. Other places I don't feel that way sometimes. But lately my game has been a little off here and there, making some mistakes that I feel like I'm giving some shots to the field, which you really just can't do anymore.
But I had some good success early at the match play this year where I played well and got some good vibes. Match play, it's almost like a final round every hole. And you have to really perform under clutch situations during the round that you can get good experience in a short time. I got some good experience and I got to play a lot of matches. However, since we came back east I've been languishing around 30th place a lot, missed the cut at the Masters, which is really tough to take. But you try to move on and learn something and come to a place like this where you never know where just one shot or one putt might turn everything around and you might find yourself flooded with confidence. I've been around golf a long time and I know that it's worth the wait.

Q. Talk about struggling at the Masters, did changing the character of the course back to what it used to be, did that throw you off at all last week?
STEWART CINK: No, it didn't at all. If they hadn't changed the course I might have shot like 90 both days (laughter).
No, it's not true. I played well the first day, shot 3-under, but then -- and to be honest, I really played okay the second day, except I played 10, 11 and 12 five over, with a double bogey, double bogey, bogey. I missed the cut by two. It wasn't a total disaster. I hit some good shots, made some good putts and some good up-and-downs. Iron shot on 10 from the fairway, 11 from the fairway and 12 from the tee, bad iron shots, and you can't get away with bad iron shots on those holes.

Q. Guys seem to put so much pressure to go into The Masters, when it's over they exhale and how do you get yourself -- they start looking to like the U.S. Open. There's so much golf in between, how do you keep yourself focused on what you want to be focused on?
STEWART CINK: All I want to be focused on is the first shot, because that's all I can really control from here to the end of this tournament is the first shot and then after that the next shot. If I understood your question right, how do players think about the U.S. Open now after The Masters?

Q. So many guys seem to just focus on the major championships and there's so much pressure on them.
STEWART CINK: Well, I think some of them are talking about that, but really what they're doing is a little different, because no player would be here right now thinking about, how I'm going to get ready to win the U.S. Open, I don't think. Maybe I need to change my thinking a little bit. I think this is a big enough tournament on its own to be very concerned to try to do my best right here. I just don't think -- the U.S. Open is not really into my mind at all yet. I'm not one to think ahead to courses or tournaments more than just a couple of days, because I think the PGA TOUR puts on great events every week. And we've got huge tournaments between now and the U.S. Open that I want to be part of and in the mix, and this is one of them. The way I can accomplish that goal is to be in the moment and focus on the first shot.

Q. Back to The Masters weekend, how did you handle the weekend? Did you watch the tournament Saturday and Sunday? Did you get away and focus on Harbour Town?
STEWART CINK: I didn't really get away to think about this. I did watch the tournament Sunday. Watched almost all of it. But it was really nice day, too, so I took my kid, my younger son and the dog over to -- we went on a bike ride. But I did record it and watch it later.
Part of the professional game of golf is missing the cut. You don't want it to be in a major, but I did miss it at the Masters. We drove home Friday night. Saturday was a day where we kind of did some things around the house we needed to do. And Sunday we watched a lot of the Masters, went to Easter service and watched the golf. And then Monday it was a rainy day so I didn't really do any preparations, but I packed and got ready to come down here.
The cut happens and if you miss it, you just sort of change your normal course of the flow of your life and then Tuesday is here and time to fly to Hilton Head. It doesn't change the schedule drastically, other than you wish you were playing golf that weekend and you weren't.

End of FastScripts

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