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September 22, 2009

Stewart Cink


LAURA HILL: Stewart, thanks for coming in. Welcome to THE TOUR Championship. I know this is a homecoming of sorts. Talk about the Playoffs and making it here and your expectations for the week.
STEWART CINK: Just to be here is kind of a bonus for me after the way I've played for about five or six rounds in the middle of the Playoffs. I'm coming into this year with a little bit of a different attitude about playing here. I've put myself in position where I really almost have nowhere to go but up. So instead of being all stressed out and all that, I've decided to put that aside and just go out there and just kind of fire away.
Who knows, it may be one of those weeks where everything goes great, it may be one of those weeks where everything doesn't go well at all. After the last week here in town with the weather, I feel fortunate to even be at the golf course.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the weather and how -- I mean, you know this golf course probably better than anybody in the field, how it's going to affect it and that kind of stuff?
STEWART CINK: Well, as far as the way the weather affects the golf course, that big lake you see out there is part of the Atlanta storm drain, so all the water that falls in the city that can't go anywhere because of concrete funnels eventually into that lake and flows that way. So it's well-controlled. It's the Corps of Engineers, so it probably won't flood. And there's no creeks anywhere on the golf course to overflow, and it's just going to be soggy. It's not going to be a damage-type flooding situation if it rains here. It's just going to be a soggy mess. And they'll have to redo the bunkers. I think that's the biggest thing for the staff. The greens have SubAir under them, and they're probably the best greens of the year. They're fabulous Bermuda greens, so that won't be effected.
As far as the way it's affected me, though, it's rained like this, you know, for six days here, so we've had this kind of rain for a while. It's completely obliterated my whole practice and warm-up schedule for this tournament, so I come in here like I've been injured or something. I've touched a club two days in the last seven days, just to hit balls and practice and putt a little bit. Not my normal routine. But, you know, everybody is a in weird situation, so we'll do the best we can with it.

Q. You mentioned having nowhere to go but up coming in. Does your win at Turnberry affect now how you look at every tournament, because obviously you're never out of it until the 72nd hole there?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, it does in a way. That's one of the major -- biggest fallouts, I guess, from the Open win, is the confidence I have to hang in there and just keep on pushing until the very end -- not that I didn't have that in my mind before, but really the confidence to know that it's possible, that anything can happen, and that I've just got to keep on going.
Yeah, in a tournament like this, when I said nowhere but up, I mean, I'm 26th. There's four places behind me that I could occupy, and there's 25 ahead of me that I could. I like my chances of maybe trying to move up a little bit more than just languishing right around 26th. At least that's the goal.

Q. Do you like the setup in which the Top 5 guys control their own destiny and then it kind of funnels down from there?
STEWART CINK: I do, I like it. It rewards you for playing well in the regular season and even more for playing well in the Playoffs. Every tournament is meaningful. So I think it's good. I think the skeleton that we have right now of the major part of the system will stay in place, I feel like. There probably will be some major changes, but I think this year is closer to what the intent was when we first started out with the FedExCup.

Q. How has this course changed over the years since you've played it?
STEWART CINK: I think two major changes have occurred here. First of all, back in the mid-'90s, we used to play back in college before it got renovated to this grand stage that we're on now. It was a good, tough golf course, but it was in awful shape and they had very little money out here, so they didn't keep up the course very well. It was sort of a diamond in the rough. In the mid-'90s, Tom Cousins came in and purchased the club from the members, and they did the whole revitalization here, which has been spectacular, and I think the story is very well-known. The model has proven to be successful, so now it's being taken other places in the country.
Again in 2008 they came and replaced the grass on the greens with Bermuda, which took it from one level to the next as far as difficulty. It really took its place among the best courses in America as far as tournament courses because now with the new greens, it's just a lot more challenging course. They changed a few holes, too, but really just the grass on the greens made it such a -- it's a firm and fast test now where you have to hit the fairways, and it's just there's a lot of challenges out there.

Q. You've talked a lot about how you felt over that last putt at the Open Championship. Can you think of a putt, either that one or another one, that was the most pressure-packed that you've ever had?
STEWART CINK: Well, yeah, that was a pressure-packed putt, but I didn't feel the pressure there. That was what was so great about my experience at the Open this year is I was so into what I was doing and into my routine and all the stuff, I had practiced so hard over the last couple months before it that the pressure was just something that really wasn't bothering me much. I've been over putts where I was way more nervous than I was there, countless times, but I just wasn't all that nervous.
I guess you could look at it two ways; does pressure mean that that putt means a lot to you and there's a lot of pressure on it for that reason, or because you have a lot of anxiety over the putt and you're nervous about it. Is that the pressure? In one way I had none, and in another way I had everything. It's a meaningful putt, obviously, final hole of a major to get myself into where I had a chance. So yeah, in that regard it was the most pressure-packed.

Q. So just to follow up on that, what would it be like to stand over a putt for $11 and a half million, roughly? Would that get your attention?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, it certainly would. It's one of those -- I don't know, it's hard to compare the two. Certainly when you have something like money on the line, there's some pressure on the other side, too, if you miss, what have you cost yourself. But it's there, too, when you have a tournament on the line.
It's hard to say; I've never had a putt for that many millions. All I can do is speculate. I hope I get a chance.

Q. If I can go ahead a little bit, what's it going to be like to play for Freddie, and what type of captain do you think Freddie is going to make?
STEWART CINK: I think he'll captain the team the same way he plays golf, the way he deals with the media, the way he deals in the locker room with us, on the range, the caddies. He's the same person no matter what he's doing, and I think that's a real virtue. I see him in the locker room or I get a text from him, and it sounds like he's just standing there talking to him. He's the same guy. I see him in interviews, at the team meeting we had at THE PLAYERS Championship this year, he'd Fred Couples and nobody is ever going to change that.
It'll be laid back, intense though because he doesn't not want to lose. Under all those layers of apparently lack of caring, underneath all that, he does not want to lose. It'll be a great experience. He'll be the guy that I've been the closest to as far as all my captains over the years. Me and Tom Lehman, we were a little bit close maybe, but Freddie is the guy that I know the best. So it'll be a great experience.

Q. And your take on him picking Jordan to be his assistant captain, one of them?
STEWART CINK: That's just pure Fred Couples. He's going to buck the golf trend a little bit. With Jordan and his competitive mind in the room, how could that be anything but fun and inspiring?

Q. It's the first time you've kind of come back here to your own backyard coming off a win in a major during that season, and now that it's the only stop in Atlanta with Sugarloaf no longer being a stop, any more hubbub around you personally, you and your wife, ticket demand, more friends coming, anything like that?
STEWART CINK: Actually, no, there hasn't been, because I think the rain has pretty much doused everybody, literally. But it's early. You know, it could be that I get some more calls. I had to pick up about two dozen tickets for people, but actually the ladies at the registration table were kind of relieved that I didn't hit them harder than that.

Q. We're doing a feature on the 1st hole and the 18th hole, and I'm just wondering what your strategy is going into those holes?
STEWART CINK: Okay, well, the 1st hole is just typical East Lake. You hit the fairway, it's a birdie hole. You hit the rough, it's not any longer a birdie hole; you're struggling. One thing about the 1st hole this year is the landing area is in the lowest part, and it could be really, really wet. But you still want to be in the fairway either way. The rough will be thick.
The green on No. 1 is one of the most severe greens, so you want to be below the hole. Even without all this rain, these greens will be fast. I don't think there's any doubt about that.
And the 18th hole, it's a pure execution hole. There's not a lot of strategy to a long par-3. You just have to pick the 2-iron or the 3-wood or whatever the course presents you that day and just step up there and hit a shot. It's probably the fewest birdies are made on that hole of any hole at THE TOUR Championship most years. So if you come to that hole needing a birdie, your chances aren't really good. But it can be done.

Q. Did they find the trophy in the clubhouse there?
LAURA HILL: Padraig told us to ask why we didn't bring it with you.
STEWART CINK: I couldn't find it. It's missing at the moment. Harrington, I guess, he only had it for two years, so he wanted to have it just a little bit longer. (Laughter.) So he decided to take it from me. I've only had it for two months. He took it from me and put it in his own locker.
LAURA HILL: And locked it?
STEWART CINK: No, it's unlocked. I found it. I had some help up there. They showed me where it was.
But if he wants to borrow it, I'll allow him to borrow it. (Laughter.)

Q. Is it in here?
STEWART CINK: It's in the clubhouse. I'm going to leave it in there. I brought it out here for the whole week, and I'm going to leave it here for a little while, for a few more weeks.

Q. Just because it's kind of backyard and Bobby Jones course?
STEWART CINK: Well, they were nice enough to offer me a membership about 13 years ago, and Bobby Jones was a member at East Lake and played his golf here, so the connection between me and Jones, East Lake, Georgia Tech, I think the trophy needs to stay here for a little while. This clubhouse is like a Bobby Jones/golf history museum. With the Claret Jug in there, the actual one, I think it's fitting.

Q. Where have you had it at home?
STEWART CINK: It's just been sitting on the kitchen island at home, the place where it's easiest seen.

Q. When you went into the locker room, how long before the joke became apparent to you? How long did it take you to find the Claret Jug?
STEWART CINK: I registered, then I went back up there real quick and I met with PGA TOUR productions to do another interview before I came down here, and I looked in my locker and saw that the jug was gone, so I assumed they had gotten it and put it on their set. I said, "So you guys already have the Claret Jug." And they said, "No."
Then the locker room attendant came over, and he said, "I think Mr. Harrington played a joke on you."
I think Harrington walked in and saw the case, not the jug, but the case. A lot of people don't know what's in there. He knew. He said, I know what's in that case, put it in my locker.

Q. So you just had a momentary thought that it had disappeared?
STEWART CINK: No, my only thought was PGA TOUR productions had already grabbed it and put it on their set to get it ready for the interview. Before I could think that it was gone, they told me where it was. I wish it was more dramatic.

Q. You mentioned The Presidents Cup. Can you speak personally or even as a member of that team the importance of winning that event, what it means to you as an American golfer and kind of the mindset that you and the team take into that event?
STEWART CINK: I think the meaningful part of a competition like that, take away the U.S. versus the world or Europe or anything like that, the fact that I'm American. But who plays against you is where the real meaning lies. If you look at the team that they have, every year they're the strongest team on paper that Europe or the U.S. could ever produce. I mean, they always produce a better team on paper. I mean, look at the guys, Retief, Vijay, Ernie; you can keep going. But pretty amazing.
To beat that team is very satisfying, and that's where just the pure competitive meaning comes from.
LAURA HILL: Stewart, thanks so much. Play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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