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August 5, 2009

Stewart Cink


COLIN MURRAY: Stewart, thanks for joining us here in the interview room at the Bridgestone Invitational, first tournament back out since winning at Turnberry a couple weeks ago. If you could just talk about how the last two weeks have been and then we'll open it up to questions.
STEWART CINK: Sure. Thanks for having me in here again. It's always nice to be in this really nice media center. It's been a great experience. I think most of us already kind of know what happened over there.
Since then, though, getting into that, it's been busy, but the TOUR has some really good staff. Laura Hill has been really handy around Atlanta, lining things up and getting it all punched out in a doable time frame. I tried to spread out the requests so that I didn't completely get just totally shot.
Then we went to Montana and just totally disappeared for six days, and now here. It was awesome.

Q. How did you get to Montana?
STEWART CINK: You want to know the details? Atlanta-Salt Lake, Salt Lake-Kalispell on Delta.

Q. How long a drive from there?
STEWART CINK: From the Kalispell Airport? It's about two and a half hours from there.

Q. What did you do?
STEWART CINK: We go to Glacier National Park all the time. It's our favorite place. We just go out there and hike the trails and raft the rivers and sip on the beers. That's about it.

Q. Did anybody recognize you there?

Q. In Montana?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, more than usual. There's little villages around the park, especially at the east and the west gate. There's only one road. Little villages where the restaurants are and the bars, that's where people recognized me. Inside the park on the trails, not many, but either in towns, the tourists, yeah, they did.

Q. Were they congratulating you?
STEWART CINK: Yeah. I know that most people were rooting for Tom Watson because of the sentimental value of the story. That's understandable. Some of the comments have been pretty funny about, "I was rooting for Tom, but when it looked like you were going to win, I was really behind you." That's all very understandable, totally. I get a kick out of that. It was no surprise. It was nice to hear they were actually pulling for me at some point.

Q. Did you take the jug with you?
STEWART CINK: I did not. The jug stayed home. I didn't really think there was anything I could do with it out there that we hadn't already done with it.

Q. What's been the reaction to people when you do show them the jug?
STEWART CINK: It's been in public twice, and both times the response was almost overwhelming, to the point where I felt like I needed to somewhat protect it. Both times were unannounced where we just kind of showed up -- we had a party of about 20, 25 people that met us at the airport that surprised us after we got home, and we went straight from the airport to Houston's restaurant in Atlanta, which is one of our spots.
My friend, one of my good friends, used to work there, so he called the manager and set aside some tables for us. And they weren't apart from the rest of the restaurant, but they were just off in a corner. That day because it was about 4:00 in the afternoon it was really not a peak time for visitors. The restaurant was full, but there weren't too many people coming over.
But then we organized more of a celebration with a few more people at another of our favorite restaurants, Atlanta New York Prime, and it's a little bit more of a bar scene, and so we got there that night with the jug. It was almost mayhem in there. There were a lot of people that wanted to take a sip out of it and get a picture made, and we accommodated I think everyone that was there. We stayed around for a few hours doing nothing but that.

Q. What have you had in it?
STEWART CINK: The first one was Guinness. That was my choice. I reserved the right to make the first choice. I'm not a big drinker, but I do like Guinness.
After that the second one to go in was my kids put Coke in it because we wouldn't let them drink beer or champagne.

Q. Why not?
STEWART CINK: I was in favor of letting them have a sip, but mama nixed that one. We put Guinness in it, there's been Harp in there, there's been some wine in there. It's been busy. It was busy for the first couple days, for the first week or so when we were home and then it's been much quieter since then.

Q. The mayhem, how many people do you think drank out of it?
STEWART CINK: Probably 75 people. I don't think there was a person in the bar that missed. I mean, there was one point where I was thinking, okay, is this a good idea? And it never was really in danger, none of us were really in danger. It was a crowded bar on a Thursday night in a big city. You can imagine.

Q. How many times did you have to fill it up?
STEWART CINK: I don't know. I wasn't in charge of that. One of my best friends at home, one of my guys, took the lead on that and said, all right, you don't worry about it, I'll just -- he went to the bar and filled it up. Come to think of it, I don't even know where the tab went on that. It holds about two and a half pints.

Q. How many copies of the Claret Jug are you going to order?
STEWART CINK: I don't know yet. I don't remember what they told me I'm allowed to order. There's a maximum. I'm sure whatever the maximum is, I'll just order that.

Q. Have you sort of looked back on that whole afternoon, and it was obvious that everything was happening very quickly, but have you looked back on it and thought to yourself that that putt on 18, at the time you probably wouldn't have known what it meant, but did you think how crucial -- now you look back on it how crucial it was, and it wasn't an easy putt?
STEWART CINK: I didn't think that -- well, I didn't know it was going to help me win the British Open, but I knew it wasn't going to hurt my chances, because no one had finished under par -- no one had finished more than 1-under, and that was going to put me the best score in the clubhouse alone, and the only group behind me that had a chance was Watson and Westwood, I think.
I wasn't really watching the scoreboards intently, but I was also not avoiding the scoreboards. If I saw one, I'd see it. I knew that putt was important, and as it turned out, it was very important.
But I just felt good on the putt, and I even joked with my caddie before a little bit, I asked him if it was a good time to abandon the pre-shot routine. He said no, so I stuck with it. And it was a perfect putt right in the middle.
Yeah, it was one of those that I'll remember for a long time.

Q. This is kind of Watson related, but at the start of the year Kenny Perry had started to come within basically a putt of winning at 48, Tom almost did at Turnberry, and the fact is only one guy in his 40s this decade has won a major, even though we see how well guys are playing week to week in their 40s. Why do you think it doesn't translate into the majors?
STEWART CINK: I don't know. That's a good question. I never thought about it. I'm surprised that only one has. Who was it, Vijay?

Q. Yeah, Whistling Straits.
STEWART CINK: I don't know. I guess maybe physically these guys that are in their 40s, especially late 40s -- 45 is not an old guy, not at all. When they made a big deal out of Kenny Perry being in contention at The Masters, I never real agreed with that. Kenny Perry doesn't seem like an old guy to me. The way he plays, I don't think his age really has anything to do with him not winning The Masters. It was just a couple of shots here and there, as it always is with somebody that doesn't win.
But maybe the majors take a little bit more out of the body or out of the mind, a little bit more mentally, to the point where maybe you make a decision at the end of the tournament when you're starting to fatigue a little bit that might be off, because usually the first thing to go is your decision making when you start to wear. And if you stay sharp, then your decision making also stays sharp.
Maybe that has something to do with it, but it's hard to say. I never really thought of it.

Q. It's a good answer for having never thought of it.
STEWART CINK: I just thought of it when you asked me. (Laughter).

Q. Apparently there was a rules discussion after you finished your final round there --

Q. -- that a lot of us were unaware of. It didn't come up in the post game, and I didn't hear about it until the next day, God knows why --
STEWART CINK: Well, whenever I'm in contention or a win, there's always a rules discussion. (Laughter).

Q. What exactly was at issue there, and can you kind of take us through what they said? You were a little late getting out to the playoff, too, and apparently were still dealing with the final vestiges of the rules thing.
STEWART CINK: No, I had to go to the Porta John.
Rules issue, on the 17th green I hit my bunker shot about six feet past the hole and it was on a pretty steep slope and the wind was blowing, so when I went to mark the ball, just as my coin went down and was almost touching the grass, the ball rolled about an inch. So I called the referee over there and I told him exactly what happened. He said, yeah, if your coin is at the back of the ball or below, basically that means you're in the act of marking it and the ball hasn't moved, so you just replace it. So I did that.
And then walking over to the 18th tee, he told me that they were just reviewing it on TV to make sure everything was done correctly. And I said, well, you told me exactly what to do, so it was done correctly. So he's like, I know you did it right, but they're just reviewing it. I'm just letting you know. I never thought about it again, played the last hole and came in and signed my card, and they said, before you leave the trailer we're just letting you know we're still reviewing it to make sure that what happened is what happened, and I'm like, okay.
I knew exactly what happened, and there was no problem. And then after maybe 30 seconds, they said, okay, everything is clear.

Q. So that didn't cause you any nervous moments there? Clearly in your mind you did exactly -- you didn't do anything wrong, but they've been known to change their minds on things in the past.
STEWART CINK: No, I knew the rule, and I called him over there just so he would see that I knew the rule and what was going on. It's not like I called him to ask a question about what would happen. I just wanted him to be aware. We proceeded the right way, and the video confirmed that, and that was it.
The reason I was late going to the tee was actually I knew what I was up against with Tom Watson because with the crowd pulling for him so much that I didn't want to be on the tee standing there when he walked up. I wanted to be the last on the tee, because if anything, I wanted him to hear some applause for me walking up there instead of the other way around. So I didn't really have to go to the restroom, but I decided to go anyway, just take a few extra seconds to go down there and then walk on the tee.

Q. Seriously?

Q. Wow.
STEWART CINK: I'm getting old, so sometimes I don't know if I have to go to the bathroom or not. (Laughter).

Q. Excuse me if my memory is a little bit faulty, but I think they complimented you on television about how calm you were most of that day. Was that anything like what you felt when you were here and won?
STEWART CINK: No, because here when I won I remember being kind of a nervous wreck until it was in hand. I think I had a three-shot lead with one or two holes to go, and I felt pretty solid then. But up until that point I was really nervous.
Over there I just had a sense of calmness that I can't really explain. I wish I had it more often, but it was just a -- I just felt really good on all my shots, and I wasn't really too concerned if I didn't win or I did win. I wanted to win and finish strong and do the best I do, but I just felt I was really peaceful with whatever was going to happen.
It seems like in those majors when you go back and look at them over the last 20 years, a lot of them there's somebody that feels that way and there's somebody that plays that way.
I remember Lee Janzen at Olympic when he shot lower than anybody else, and he beat Payne Stewart that day. There's always somebody that has that feeling about him and plays like they do, and it was me that day. I wish I could just capture it, but golf doesn't always allow that.

Q. I know you've always expected a lot of yourself on the golf course, but with a major championship on your resumé now, do you even expect more from yourself?
STEWART CINK: I don't think so. I think that's what gets players in trouble after the majors when they win. They expect more and they think of themselves as a different type of person or a different golfer.
I'm really not a different player. I won a tournament that I hadn't won before, and I have more confidence now. But the only thing I think that's changed is that when I get in another situation like that or be in contention again, I'll have something concrete to draw from. Other than that, I mean, I've been out here playing long enough where I don't think it changes me as a person very much.
Financially, you know, it's great, but it's really not the -- it hasn't changed that situation a whole lot, either. It's just a lot of confidence from that. I just look forward to being in contention again so I can hopefully use that.

Q. Do you think the players will look at you differently now with a major under your belt?
STEWART CINK: I think they do a little bit because I know when players win their first major I look at them a little different, like Zach and Lucas, my good friends who have won those majors recently. I see them a little bit differently, not personally but as a golfer, and I think they probably will see me a little bit differently.

Q. How would you have assessed your career before the British Open win, and having it now, does it change the way you look at it?
STEWART CINK: I always said that I felt like an underachiever, for years and years. I felt like I had a lot of game, that I played well, but never really had the number of wins to show for it that I felt like I had a chance to grab hold of.
And now I won the British Open, so that is somewhat lessened to me. I feel like, okay, one major win takes care of a whole lot of other losses.
I still feel like I have not produced quite the numbers that I would have liked to as far as wins, but when you add a major there, it does a lot to erase some of those thoughts.

Q. Did you feel like coming out on TOUR that you would have won more by this point?
STEWART CINK: No, I never really thought of my career in that way. I've never been a look ahead or a look back type of guy. I've always just tried to do what I can now, just practice and be ready for the next one.
So when I started as a pro, I just was trying to feed my family, basically. I already had a little one and married since I was 20, so I was just trying to earn a few bucks and see what I could do. I got on TOUR real quick and then won real quick, and suddenly, it's like, whoa, now I have expectations. That's when I kind of started getting into the thought of, well, I won quickly, now why don't I win quickly again. And it took a while. That's where it came from.

Q. Stewart, you've won here in the past, you've won a British Open. Will it be hard to focus with your first tournament coming back here? Well, I know you're still preparing for the PGA, but it seems to me it might be a difficult task to play here this week.
STEWART CINK: It might have been if it was the week after the Open, but since I've had some time to reflect and relax, I doubt it will be very hard to focus because of that. If anything it might be hard to focus because I've not been really playing and practicing much at home. I really didn't practice a whole lot at all, I mean, really. (Laughter). Mentally I'm ready to go and I'm hungry to get back in there. Physically it might take me a day or two to warm up. We'll see.

Q. Following up on Steve's question about major winners and how it changes the way people think about themselves and sort of the way they do business going ahead, there have been a number of players, I can probably think of off the top of my head, who haven't won since they won a major, Rich Beem most recently as we head back to Hazeltine. Can you understand that, I guess, the pressures and the rationale for some of these guys? Craig Perks didn't win a major but he won THE PLAYERS Championship, went out and blew up his swing, Harrington won three out of six majors, went out, spent the off-season blowing up his swing. I guess the temptation there to try to, I'm here and I still think I can get here and how some guys perhaps succumb to that?
STEWART CINK: Well, golf is such a fluid entity for us that it never is static. You think you have reached something when you win a big tournament, or like Harrington when you win a bunch in a row, and I guess you maybe feel like you should be a little bit better than that or you can be, and it's true, you can be better. Tiger is setting the benchmark for us all. As good as he is, and I heard on television today that he's won 20 of his last 39 tournaments roughly, 21 out of his last 39 or something like that. That's a pretty good clip.
There's always room to improve. I've got one major, but I'm not going to go out and blow up my swing any time soon. I did that back in 2002 and 2003 with Butch. That's done for me. I'm never going to be the kind of guy that hits every fairway. It just won't ever be that way. I just gotta play golf, play a golf course how I find it. A lot of times I find my ball in the trees or in the rough, and I've just got to deal with that.
I don't know. I can understand, though, how a guy would want more, because really, I knew I was going to be off two weeks after the Open no matter if I won or not. But as soon as it was over I remember telling my wife, I wish I could play next week because I just feel like I want to be out there playing because it's so much fun when you're having some success. That's probably not the smartest thing to do is to act on those wins, but I can understand how a younger guy who gets thrust into the limelight real quickly by winning a huge tournament would maybe succumb to that.

Q. I was going to ask you in those days that you have reflected on your victory since Turnberry and you sit there and look at the trophy, what do you think about when you see all those names there?
STEWART CINK: That's the part that hasn't sunk in yet and that's the most overwhelming is the history of all those names. Our tournament -- when I say our tournament, I mean me and Tom Watson's, we had to share it a little bit. Even though I ended up with the trophy, it was really the Tom Watson story the whole week. Every one of those names has a story to it. So and so shot whatever and maybe a guy blew up and gave away the tournament and a name went on there. But there's just so much history. Back to 1872 the names go. Bobby Jones is on there and a lot of guys from way back.
That part of it, the part on the course when you win and you feel the victory and you triumph, that sinks in right away because as a professional, that's what I do. But the names and the history and the jug and all the stories -- Tom even told me a story about the jug that he took it on a fishing trip or something, without the details. Stuff like that. Every guy that's won that probably has stories. That part will be a long time sinking in.

Q. You said you don't look ahead or look back, but I would guess maybe there is still a sense of relief having done this, getting a major. Has that changed your perception of the guys who haven't done it, a Sergio or an Adam Scott and the kind of stuff they're dealing with?
STEWART CINK: I don't think so, because I never really felt like I was having to deal with anything. I never felt like the guy that had a monkey on my back because I hadn't won any majors. I'm just trying to win tournaments, trying to get in contention as much as I can and see what happens.
If a player is dealing with sort of that monkey -- the one that sticks out in my mind the most was Phil back in -- before his first win, about '05 or '04, whenever he won his first one, and it was everywhere, is Phil going to win a major, will he or won't he. That one was probably the toughest. His sense of relief was probably the greatest in history.
Mine, though, it kind of caught me off guard because I had pretty much scrapped 2009 because I wasn't playing very well, and I really changed a lot of stuff right before, and I was really just getting ready for '10. It came out of almost nowhere for me, and when I got in contention I was just proud of myself to be able to seize it.
But I went into the tournament without many expectations. I definitely wouldn't say that I felt like I had a monkey on my back, that I was 0 for 49. It doesn't really change your perspective or the perception, my own perception of those other players.

Q. What was it like going to -- for 15-odd years going to the PGA as the last major of the year and you hadn't won one. How is it different this year? For a lot of guys it's obviously their last shot.
STEWART CINK: Yeah, I don't think the players really think of it as their last shot. You know, we keep going, and then The Masters comes up, and just because the calendar flips over, it almost doesn't matter. You keep going.
It feels differently for me this year, though, because now I've got one and I feel that flood of confidence. I feel like if I get in that situation again, I can do it. And before, you just don't know for sure until you win one.
I've never been the type of guy that's brimming with arrogance or confidence that I just knew I could do it because I had to prove it to myself first. But the difference this year, the cool thing will be that I think I'll be playing with Lucas and Cabrera, the three of us play together at the PGA. So that will be cool, my first ceremonial pairing. (Laughter). I like both those guys, so it'll be fun to play with them, and the meaning behind it, that they all won majors, will be cool.

Q. Kind of a different year in that I think the three major winners, none of them were ranked inside the Top 30 at the time. Do you read anything into that?
STEWART CINK: All that can be read into that I guess is just depth. To say a guy is 15th or 45th really is the difference that big, or 45th to 100th? That's why you hear so much grousing about the World Rankings, because there's just such a fine difference. I mean, you're talking hundredths of points.

Q. Two things I want to ask you. One is can you share some of the moments that you and Tom shared maybe right then and there or a little bit after? And you must have felt -- even though it was a great moment for you, you must have felt some empathy for him. And secondly, I want to address the issue that a lot of people say that Tiger has won so many majors because he hasn't had players good enough to beat, but obviously we've seen all of you -- you just mentioned Cabrera and Lucas and you. You've all actually beaten him and he's been in the field. So just address that issue about the idea that he's won so much because there hasn't been the talent there to beat him.
STEWART CINK: The thoughts me and Tom shared on the green, there weren't a lot of them. We shared a little bit. But I remember mentioning to him that it was astonishing that I got my name on the Claret Jug and his name was on there five times already. I pointed it out to him, there, there, there, there. That was immediately right there on the green.
And then in the hotel later on, we met up just randomly on the stairs, he and his wife and my wife and myself, and that's when he told me the story about the fishing trip, that he had been on a trip and the jug got dropped or something and bent, and they repaired it. But that was really what we shared.
But the coolest thing to me was standing there and seeing his name all over it, and it's like plastered everywhere. My name is on there now, too. It was really cool, though. That was the moment right there on the green. I think there's been some photos taken of that.

Q. And the bit about --
STEWART CINK: Yeah, about Tiger. Well, I personally believe that Tiger is the best that's ever played. The reason that no one has been good enough to challenge him in many majors is because no one has ever been as good as he is. We're playing against the guy that's the best ever. When you think about it, the skills that he has with his long game and the short game and the putting, how much clutch putts have you seen? You just don't go back in history and see that many of those made by anybody, and Tiger just seems to do it routinely.

Q. Do you think it's more about him rather than the extent of the competition?
STEWART CINK: I just think he's the best that's ever played this game.

Q. You mentioned getting married at age 20. I guess you were probably still in college. That's fairly unusual. I was wondering what that was like. You obviously met her at Georgia Tech or she was another Atlanta-area person like yourself, or how did that all go down? You had kids right away and then Nationwide Tour and you kind of grew up early.
STEWART CINK: You could say that. If I've grown up at all. (Laughter).
Lisa and I knew each other since 10th grade, went to the same high school. We got married in college, and our first child was born in college. She went to Auburn, and then she transferred up to Georgia Tech and finished up. We both graduated on the same day.
But the big part of getting married early as far as the impact it had on my career early on was I became a college kid and a married kid at the same time, which is not a good mix. Being a college student, the married life is not really -- it doesn't fit. It's like a square peg in a round hole.
I had to take what little time I had to spare and learn to squeeze a lot of quality practicing into just a tiny little sliver of time. That really prepared me very well for what was going to come later, for a pro career, because I really learned how to practice well and practice not very long but get a lot out of it. When the other guys on my team were out throwing the football and goofing up, I was bearing down for an hour and a half and doing five hours' worth of practice.
Interestingly, I played some of my best golf between getting married and my rookie year on Tour. The Nationwide Tour I still think may be the best year I ever played in '96 because I won a lot and I just was in contention all the time.
And then I settled in out here for a while, and just recently this year I picked up that intense practicing again because I just wasn't very satisfied with the way I was putting. Nothing was really going the way I wanted it to, so I just sort of rededicated myself and I learned some practicing techniques that really helped me bear down hard mentally when I'm practicing and get a lot of work done.
For two months now, since late May, I've probably practiced my putting more cumulatively than I have the rest of my career. I mean, sore back, blisters on my hands, stuff like that.
When I told Mo Pickens, who I started working with at that time about how my back was hurting, he said, well, you know what that means if your back is hurting when you're practicing your putting. I said, no, what does that mean, my posture is off? He said, no, you're not practicing your putting enough. He was right because now my back doesn't hurt anymore when I practice for a long time.
Getting married and having to condense my practice into a short time and to the last few months -- well, they're not short practice times, but I'm getting a lot out of them. They're long, but I'm get a lot out of them. The results came right away. In my fifth tournament since going back to a short putter and since I started working with Mo, and I won the British Open.
COLIN MURRAY: Stewart, thanks for joining us, and good luck this week.

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