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July 14, 2010

Stewart Cink


LYNN WALLACE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome defending Open Champion Stewart Cink. Thanks for joining us, Stewart. How would you assess your form coming into this week's title defence?
STEWART CINK: It's coming around. It hasn't been great this year. This year hasn't really been a good year for results on the course. I seem to have got worse before I started to get better. But lately I've been playing a little better and seeing more of a spark in my game, and you know, it's very similar to last year where I really had nothing going at all until, boom, Turnberry. I'm hoping this year we can say, "boom, St. Andrews."

Q. What is your assessment of the course?
STEWART CINK: It's my favourite place to play golf in the world. It's a variety. There's not another word to describe it. You can pick every superlative that there is out there for variety, and that's what it is. Obviously we've had beautiful weather for two days and today we have a wreck out there, and there's not many golfers at all. But it's a fair test.
It's not easy. Scott Verplank had a great quote that I read recently that said, "The Old Course will teach you everything you need to know about playing golf," and I think that sums it up pretty well.

Q. 12 months on, do you still think about being the guy who prevented us all from writing up a fairy tale?
STEWART CINK: A little bit. A little bit. I understand that was the situation. It totally makes sense. But in no way has it taken anything off of what I felt from last year and the joy I've been able to have the last year being the Open Champion has been almost indescribable. It's just fantastic.

Q. Do you still spare a thought for Tom, though, on that day?
STEWART CINK: I'm sorry?

Q. Do you still spare a thought for Tom?
STEWART CINK: I'm not sure I understand your phrase exactly because we don't always use that. But if you're asking me if I feel sorry for him, no, I don't feel sorry for him because he got five Claret Jug titles and I only have one.
It was a spectacular display that he put on last year. Every time I play with him, though, I see that it's possible because he hits the ball very solidly, and I think the way the wind blows, if it blows a lot and the course is dry and firm, that's when Tom Watson has the best chance. So like at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open or this course could very well be that way, he has a chance. He has a very good head on his shoulders and the golf course is standing the test of time before all of our eyes.

Q. I was just wondering with the weather like it is today when the tournament gets under way, can you give us an idea of what it's like? Is it virtually unplayable?
STEWART CINK: Virtually it is. Today we went out -- the opening nine, you're headed straight downwind with a little off the right, and it's like a dream. Every shot you hit, no matter how bad you hit it, it's a nice draw. We played four holes and decided to turn around, and as soon as we hit 14 tee box, it was the exact opposite. You couldn't do anything except hit a huge slice. I mean, it's hard to describe really how difficult it is because not only do you have the weather but you still have the golf course in front of you. You've got OB, you've got bunkers that you can hardly play out of, not to mention length. The golf ball doesn't travel at all when it's like this. So it's a lot of work coming in.
I'd say that par on the back nine would be more like around a 40 on a day like today, and the par on the way out might be a 34.

Q. You had the jug for 12 months, could you describe what you've done with it, what alcoholic beverages you've had in it and where it's been? Has it sat on your mantle piece or what?
STEWART CINK: It was really busy for the first two months or so, and then it sat in the house different places, got moved around. The kids decided where it went sometimes. The first thing that went in it, I reserved the right to put in Guinness. That's my beer of choice, not that I drink a lot of beer, but when I do -- it had Guinness in it first, we'll put it that way. The kids drank Coca-Cola out of it. We had some wine in it. We basted some barbecue with it. (Laughter.) Just trying to think now.
A lot of people think I did more with it than anyone else that's ever had it, but I think it's due to Twitter. I think I publicized a lot of it. People read along the way what we were doing with it. I just enjoyed having it. I realise now how much attention it draws everywhere around the world. We definitely put it to good use, and it was an honour to be in possession of it.

Q. Are you fed up with hearing the words "Tom" and "Watson"? And over the course of the last 12 months have you had cause to feel a bit of frustration that you probably haven't received the credit that you deserved for winning the Open?
STEWART CINK: No, I don't play golf to get credit from external sources. I understand on the inside, right here, what I did last year and what took place. That's all the credit that I need is the satisfaction that I received from winning that tournament.
In no way am I tired of hearing the words "Tom" and "Watson," not at all. If I hadn't won the tournament last year in that way, with Tom being involved, it wouldn't have been such a special event. I mean, that just made it even more special, that a 59-year-old legend Tom Watson was involved till the very end. So I'm not tired of hearing it. I don't feel like he's taken anything away from me. In fact, some of the writing may have indicated that, but it doesn't bother me at all.
When I played with Tom, for instance, yesterday in a practise round, there's no bad feelings between us. It was his idea that we play together. Yeah, I think we both understand that when you get into the battle and you're in between the ropes coming down the stretch in a major like that, it doesn't matter what age you are or how many titles you've won before. So that's the satisfaction I get from it. I don't feel lessened in any way.

Q. Can you just tell us, please, what's life been like for you as Open Champion over the past year? How much has it changed your life? Have you been sort of opening supermarkets back home and things like that? Have you been mobbed by fans here in Scotland?
STEWART CINK: I haven't been, but in fact, my life hasn't really changed at all since then. I think if I had been early in my career, like say Ben Curtis was when he won, then his life certainly would have changed. But I've been 13 years on in my career and been out here for a long time and had a few wins. A few people who knew golf knew me in the States already. My life isn't changed, but the thing that changed for me was mainly the crowd reception at tournaments. I went from being the guy that didn't get any attention in a group if I was playing with one of the big stars like Phil or Tiger, to suddenly I get plenty of shouts and plenty of fans wanting to slap me high fives between holes and stuff like that. So that's really cool for my confidence. It feels great.
Also, there's been obviously some more media attention and some more requests, but that just helped me organise my time better, which is something I needed to do before the Open anyway. That was one of my goals for last year, and it just served to crystallize the need for that.

Q. Do you think that will stay with you if you don't defend the title? Do you think you'll go back to being the guy that gets no attention, or do you think it's a permanent --
STEWART CINK: No, I think if I don't go on to win this week, I mean, there's a slim chance that I'll win because there's a lot of players and they're all good players, but if I don't go on to win, I don't think I'll just fade back to where I was before. I think it'll just over time probably drop back down a little bit, but they'll never be able to take that away from me.
The vision of me and Watson, well, especially Tom, playing last year, will be in everyone's mind for a long time. They'll probably remember him more because of the uniqueness of what he was doing. But I don't think it'll fade totally for -- I don't think I'll fade totally from their minds, either.

Q. Last night you were at the dinner here at the clubhouse with the other champions and you walked back to your hotel right across the golf course. Could you just talk about what were your emotions when you're involved in something like that and then when you're walking across this ground after that experience. What was going through your head as the reigning Open Champion?
STEWART CINK: Well, it was a very emotional night for me last night. They invite all the Open Champions in for a champions' dinner every year when the Open is at St. Andrews. I think they had all the past champions but maybe four or five that were here, so that's pretty impressive. Just for that, for that many guys to come back, it obviously means a lot to them, and these guys have won a lot of other tournaments in the world. They are invited to a lot of dinners, but yet they come back to St. Andrews, home of golf, and everyone loves it. It has a feel to it that's indescribable.
You mix all that together, all those guys in one room, and all the history and the tradition that's involved with a dinner like that, and you're the guy that was the most recent one, it's pretty overwhelming. But I think the pinnacle of that came when they presented us with a gift, which was a replica of the belt from the 1860s. I think the first ten years they played for a belt, and they gave us a replica of that belt buckle. That was really moving to me. It was just a very special evening all around.

Q. I wonder how visible you find yourself on this side of the pond. There's a feeling that as the reigning Open Champion in Scotland you're still not highly visible in the streets. How do you find that in St. Andrews itself?
STEWART CINK: Well, I thought it was interesting last week, we played in Dublin for a few days. Last year we stayed on the West Coast of Ireland playing some links courses, but this year we stayed in Dublin. Driving through town one day there was a taxicab that stopped and left a gap. I pulled out to make a right turn. With my American sense of driving on the wrong side of the road, I'm always a little careful driving into right turns here. So I pulled out in front of this taxicab, and as I looked around the car this way, I started to ease out, and the taxicab laid on the horn, and I just knew I had done something wrong, and I immediately got embarrassed. I looked at the driver, and he was pointing at me, and he was going, "good luck, good luck!" (Indicating thumbs up). So right away, my wife says, "Oh, my gosh, it's everywhere." I went from being embarrassed to being honoured. It was neat.

Q. Just two quick questions: Did you play the same links courses you did last year before Turnberry?
STEWART CINK: No, we played all different ones. Last year we stayed on the west coast and this year on the east coast.

Q. What were the courses you played?
STEWART CINK: We played two rounds at Portmarnock and one at Baltray.

Q. Also you spoke last year about the putt on the final green. You got a lot of satisfaction mentally from being able to pull that off under pressure. Have you been able to revisit that over the last 12 months in competition and say you executed when you had to?
STEWART CINK: I think every time I've had a 15-foot putt I've revisited that, whether it's been for eagle or double bogey. It's hard not to. That really solidified a lot of work I did last year leading into the Open, by being able to stick to my guns and have it pay off like that. That really solidified in my mind that the work was paying off.
So yeah, I stick to the same thing now. I always think about that. Every time I'm reminded by fans or in an interview or just alone maybe or just playing golf, those memories are in my mind, and they're really fresh still. I haven't had a chance to use it yet coming down the stretch in contention, but hopefully that'll come soon.

Q. Last week we asked Graeme McDowell whether he felt worthy of being U.S. Open champion given all the greats that have won the title before him. I'll ask the same question to you, do you feel worthy given all the great names on the Claret Jug?
STEWART CINK: It's hard to look at the names and feel worthy because I grew up seeing some of those players. Most of them were gone long before me, but to know what some of those great players have done over history, it's hard to feel like you fit in. But that's just a piece of personality that everyone has.
I work really hard to play as well as I can, and in golf you play a lot of tournaments for a few wins, unless your name is Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus. I'm one of those guys that has worked hard for a long time, and I've had probably fewer than I thought I would have. But I got my Open Championship last year.
Do I feel worthy? Do I feel like my name matches up to everyone on that list? No way, I'm not going to be Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods. Those guys are the best ever that have played, Bobby Jones. We can go back a long time. But am I worthy to be on the Claret Jug? Yes, because I played as well as I played for 72 holes last year at Turnberry, when it counted I was able to come through and polish it off.

Q. Have you still got the jug or do you have to give it back as soon as you roll into town, or do you keep it until Sunday?
STEWART CINK: No, I gave it back yesterday. I gave it back right before the dinner. I thought that was appropriate to bring it, and I returned it to the clubhouse personally before we had the photograph.

Q. How did that feel, giving it back?
STEWART CINK: It was okay. It was okay, because --

Q. Has it still got barbecue sauce on it?
STEWART CINK: No, I cleaned all that out in Dublin. I actually did, because my buddy cleaned it out when we were at our 4th of July celebration back in the States last week, the week before last. I thought he cleaned it out, but when I went and put it in the case, I noticed on the flight over to Dublin that some of it leaked out into the Styrofoam. So I went and investigated and found that there was still sauce inside that had to be cleaned out. So I went and cleaned it in Dublin and got it nice and fresh and shined the outside. It was in fit condition when it went back.

Q. How did it feel giving it back? Was that moving?
STEWART CINK: It wasn't really. It was part of the due process of having that in possession. I told Peter Dawson that he was going to have to wrestle me for it earlier in the week, and it didn't come to that. It wasn't emotional giving it back, although certainly it was -- just bringing it back over here, I felt a sense of how much that jug means. But it was time to give it back. It's been a year. We're back here at a new venue now -- well, new, quote-unquote, old, if you will. But it was time to go back.
So now it's up for grabs again, and whoever wins this year will be happy to have it with them.

Q. If you are there on the final day, if you're in contention, will you plan to attire yourself in lime green again? Are you superstitious to that?
STEWART CINK: No, I'm not superstitious really in any way. And because I'm a Nike player, they lay our clothes out for us Thursday through Sunday, so that was their scripting for the week. My scripting this Sunday doesn't include lime green. Kermit green we call it, Kermit. (Laughter.)
LYNN WALLACE: Thanks very much for joining us, Stewart. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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