What they said: Stewart Cink

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November 10, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Children's Miracle Network Classic transcript archive

PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome Stewart Cink into the media center this afternoon for the 2010 Children's Miracle Network Classic. Stewart, you've had some success here at Disney before, haven't played since the Ryder Cup, I believe. Maybe start us off with a few comments about coming back to Orlando for this event.

STEWART CINK: Well, it's a good time of year for me to play. I'm glad to be here. It's easy for me to get here from Atlanta, which is a nice thing.

I like to take breaks this time of year, but not completely off. I'm not a guy that likes to take off a dozen weeks or more and come back for my first tournament on the West Coast.

So this tournament is the perfect time, and you know, I'll wait four more weeks and play the Chevron. So this is just a good spacing for me, and I see this tournament as like the start of my 2011.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. Maybe tell us about the golf course and how you think it'll shape up.

STEWART CINK: Well, the course, as we all know, has given up lots of low scores over the years pretty routinely, so you have to be in an aggressive mental mindset when you're out there.

And the course is in good shape. The greens are rolling nice, and it's really not that hard to see why everybody shoots low. The greens are fairly flat, and with some of these shorter holes, especially on The Palm Course, you know, you can make lots of birdies.

But you have to be on your game. I mean it's a difficult course considering, you know, I haven't played a lot, and to come here and just put pedal to the metal right away is a tricky thing to do.

Being in the kind of form to where you're just going to go out there and birdie the first six holes, that's not really what five weeks off foster. So it's not the best place probably for a five week break and then, boom, here we are making as many birdies as possible, but it's a good way to sort of get yourself yanked by the chain right away, and you look up when you tee off at 11:25, as I do tomorrow morning, someone will be 8 under by then, or more maybe. So it's a good way to sort of give me a little slap back into reality.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. We'll just open it up for questions.

Q. What did you think, if you've thought about it at all, of the Rory McIlroy news over the last couple of days? And it looks like we're sort of maybe trending back towards like it was in the old days where a lot of the best European guys played there and all the best American guys played here and they'd meet in the majors and the Ryder Cup every couple of years. Seems like there's a new line.

STEWART CINK: Yeah. You could say that. There's a lot of moving parts to that decision. First of all, let's consider that we're talking about a 21 year old young man, mature kid; and I like him. I really get along with him great. But a young guy, and when we were all that age, you know, being away from home that far separated by a gigantic ocean wasn't something we were all looking forward to that much.

So for one thing, he wants to stay closer to home, and more of their tournaments are closer to home; and they do play all over the world, too. So I understand that, and I don't really know that much about it. I haven't read anything or talked. I just heard talk about in the press and from some of the reporters out there about his decision, but I can't blame him, certainly, for wanting to stay nearer to home and supporting his home tour where he grew up playing.

It's a little disappointing to the PGA TOUR because we like having the very top players around the world. We like to hoard all of them for us, but the fact is not everybody is going to want to play on the PGA TOUR if they didn't grow up in the United States of America.

Q. If I could just follow that up, it's not only Rory, but Westwood passed on a chance and Kaymer may. Does this signify is there a change in the way things are going??

STEWART CINK: I still I don't think there's a change. I think the PGA TOUR, U.S. PGA TOUR is still the best place to play in the world.

But I'm American. I mean this is the place that I choose to be my home tour for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is I grew up in the next state over. So it's easy for me to say, yeah, this is the best place to be.

I mean money wise, field wise, I think most weeks we're a little we have the edge on the European Tour mostly, but they have some strong events that have overtaken some of ours.

You know, I don't think there's a shift. I think the shift is coincidental that three top players happened to say I think I'll stay there.

You still got some good players playing over here. Paul Casey is playing over here. Luke Donald is doing good playing over here. Robert Carlson is moving to Charlotte. A lot of guys have moved over and support our TOUR and loved it, and I think that'll keep happening. It just happens right now we've got three high profile guys choosing to stay.

Q. In Wales Corey was pretty protective about the team room, what went on in there. Just maybe some insight. Any surprises to you from the young guys? I'd like to get your reaction to Fowler, Overton, those guys that were the real youngsters. Just anything that may have surprised you about them?

STEWART CINK: Overall I would say while everyone was great in the team room and on the course, the one that surprised me the most was Jeff Overton because I didn't really know Jeff very well before the Ryder Cup, and I think a lot of us would say we didn't know Jeff very well.

He's a pretty quiet guy most of the time, just not a guy that we all knew very well. And he really came out of his shell and got along great with everyone and was a lot of fun to be around. And he took the biggest leap in my book because I didn't know him, and now I like him and I consider him a friend.

The Ryder Cup is I'm sure it's about wins and losses and match points, but you know, 20 years down the road we'll look back and think about our relationships we forged in our careers, and the Ryder Cup certainly will play a huge part in that, too.

Q. How about yourself? What will you take away from that week and what's really stuck in your mind about it?

STEWART CINK: Well, I think I played really well that week. I was disappointed I didn't win my singles match against Rory. But we all could say something similar to that along the way.

But I did, I played really well. That's the thing I take out of the Ryder Cup for myself is I didn't have a great 2010, but I did play really well at the Ryder Cup. And I'm hoping that I can take some of that intensity and bring it to the stroke play events and from here on out and just take a little confidence away from that.

But overall, you know, it was a very positive experience. We really struggled that one session where they killed us, and that lost us the Ryder Cup. Other than that, it was very positive, and there was some really great moments typical of Ryder Cup golf. So I have just tons of great memories.

Playing with Kuch was fun. He and I get along great anyway. Getting to know some of the wives. It's the same thing every year. The relationships you forge in the Ryder Cup really last a long time.

Q. When we were over in Wales, it kind of passed unnoticed, but here in the States they kind of made a big deal out of it during the NBC broadcast was the length of time it took you to eat the peanut butter sandwich while you were walking up to the fateful par 3 hole, which I completely missed unless you were getting the NBC feed. Can you sort of walk us through that? I didn't really know that you had that many tricks in your toolbox, assuming that what they were saying on the air was accurate.

STEWART CINK: You think you got it all figured out, but I have no tricks in my toolbox, and that wasn't the trick. I was just trying to get the peanut butter off the roof of my mouth.

I got a sandwich off the cart after we hit or we didn't hit. The other two guys hit. But walking to the green I was starting to feel hungry, and I know that that's a bad sign. You don't want to wait till you feel hungry before you eat something, and my mind was kind of shifted into knowing that I'd be teeing off for my next match in about an hour, because we were going to play more golf that day. So I wanted to I knew it was the 17th hole of that match, but it wasn't like the end of the day.

So I knew I had to go ahead and get some fuel in me because I didn't think there was going to be a chance in between. So I went and got that sandwich, and coming up the hill from the cart where it was parked up to the green, you know, I was breathing pretty heavy, nervous; and when you're trying to eat and walk up a hill and you're already kind of got a little elevated heart rate anyway, I just wasn't able to chew very efficiently.

So that peanut butter and jelly was sticking to the roof of my mouth, and I didn't want to hit that putt, being an important putt, I didn't want to hit that thing with food in my mouth. So I just had to take time and let it wash down. And they kind of got on my case on TV about how I was icing the other guys, but first of all, let's just set the record straight right now. There is no such thing as icing in golf because the longer it takes you to hit your shot, you're icing yourself as much as you're icing anybody. So that's ridiculous.

Q. You had to go first.

STEWART CINK: I had to go first, so I was just trying to get my mouth cleaned out so I could actually think about what I was doing instead of having peanut butter jammed in the roof of my mouth.

Q. I think they probably assumed you were doing that because of the Watson thing the year before when you intentionally were the second guy to the tee box for the Playoffs because they said you wanted to hear the people applaud when you walked up and not have it be so one sided. Most people wouldn't have the presence of mind to think that far ahead.

STEWART CINK: Yeah. That was a more calculated move. That was my one bag of tricks, my one trick in the bag. That was something I definitely did deliberately because I wanted to be second to the tee.

But that was the start of an event, in a way, because it was the start of a playoff. This was ongoing play, tee to green, and I just happened to take longer to get to the green because of peanut butter in my mouth.

Q. Staying with the Ryder Cup, we are waiting for the PGA of America to make the next announcement of the next captain. Who do you think it's going to be or do you know already??

STEWART CINK: Who do I think it's going to be? I would be well, I don't know. I've never been told anything, but I mean logically I think Davis probably comes into mind as one of the likely candidates for that job. That would be my pick.

Q. And to follow that up, you and I had this conversation a couple years ago, if Stewart Cink is now on that list, is that something that you've checked off saying maybe my turn will be 2020, 2022??

STEWART CINK: I'd love to get an opportunity to do that, but I haven't thought about anything as far as like years or whatever. I still want to be a good successful PGA TOUR player before I'm any captain.

Q. Stewart, can you just speak about the state of your game following up the major championship, how the year's been and how maybe having won that affected your approach or your year??

STEWART CINK: Well, it didn't affect anything. You know, I always work on the same stuff, basically, anyway. So it didn't affect anything.

But I've been really disappointed with the way I played this year. It doesn't have anything to do with the British Open win, but it really was very similar to 2009 for me, if you take away that win, because I really didn't have much of a year in 2009 either except for that.

And winning a major goes a long way to erase your perception of how your year was. But this year I just didn't perform like I wanted to. Basically I wasn't in contention enough.

I just didn't I drove it really well this year, and my putting was a little sporadic. My short game wasn't as reliable as I wanted it to be. My iron play was just not quite up to my standards, and all that adds up to not being there enough.

I want to be in contention you know, I think if you look take away Tiger and Phil, but most of the players that are sort of in the 3rd through 50th range, you know, on the TOUR, if you have a really good year, you're probably in contention with a legitimate chance to win on Sunday probably four, five times. And maybe you do once or twice. Maybe you don't. But I think I only had a real chance to win this year maybe two times, and that's just not enough. I want to be there a little bit more.

Q. Looking back on the 2010 season, other than the obvious, what are the effects of Tiger's saga on golf??

STEWART CINK: It's similar to when he just doesn't play much because I think people want to look out here, the fans want to see Tiger dominate. You know, Tiger's the only guy that keeps the television viewer watching when he's leading by like 10 shots.

Most of the time if I'm leading by 10 shots, which I haven't really done a lot, but if I did, then I think most viewer's would say, well, this is over and they'd go watch something else. But with Tiger they like to see that, and it's almost impossible to explain why that is, but they do.

So people like to see that. They like to see him dominate, and I think they lost a little bit of interest probably when he wasn't dominating. And it feels like they want him to be at the very top, and I understand why because he's a fascinating player to watch when he's there.

Q. Do you expect him to come back like nothing happened next year??

STEWART CINK: I don't know. It's hard to say. I would never doubt anything that Tiger Woods could do because he's the best player I've ever seen play. So it's dangerous territory when you start saying, no, I don't think he'll ever be the same. So I just can't say that.

I think he played great at the Ryder Cup and showed signs that maybe he'll be the old Tiger Woods again. But he's been through so much, mentally, off the course that, you know, it does tend to sort of weigh into your performance. And the mental edge is such a big part of his dominance.

Q. It was about a year ago, Thanksgiving eve or maybe Thanksgiving Day that basically the call came across. When did you hear it? What was your immediate reaction?

STEWART CINK: I saw the news right away on Thanksgiving, just like we all did. I was very confused for a few I guess it was a few weeks or so before it really started to come out, maybe a week. And just didn't know what to think.

But I was I think in denial is one way I could describe my first reaction. I just you know, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it.

Q. I'm going to actually follow up on that, too. Since last Thanksgiving among players you talked about the fans' standpoint, but among players has the landscape changed in the past year with what's gone on with Tiger??

STEWART CINK: No, it hasn't. I think too much is made of the way that Tiger has affected the players because we all just try to do the best we can all the time. It's just that Tiger Woods has been better than we were for much of his career.

Now, it seems like this year, you know, the lingering effects of his knee issue may still be there and the obvious issues he's had since last Thanksgiving have been there, and that's contributed to him not winning this year.

And it feels like the rest of the players have sort of elevated, but that's not the case really. Everybody is still trying as hard as they can try. They're preparing. They're just doing the best they can, and he just hasn't been better than everyone as much as he used to.

Will it come back? He'll rise again and be dominant, maybe not for such a long period. Maybe he will fire and fall back, but that's impossible to predict. But I don't think it's affected the way other players are approaching anything.

Q. Particularly with the rise of the young players, you know, there was a time where Tiger did kind of carry, for right or wrong, this bullet proof type aura. Is that different because of the young players? Is it different because of what's happened in the last year or maybe it's not different at all?

STEWART CINK: No. I think it's him that's different, because that bulletproof, that's the mental edge that I talked about a second ago. He never thought he had a chance of not winning, and this year he didn't win any, so you know, that thought can creep into your mind that maybe I do have a chance of losing. And that's big. You know, that's just a change in an athlete. And everyone goes through that.

If you look at the dominant players in any sport, they have periods like that. And this may be one of Tiger Woods' drops, and it might be the way he is for the rest of his career, but only really he can determine that.

Q. What about the diamond cutter??

STEWART CINK: That was Kuch. We didn't know this, but going back to Kuch's amateur days, he and some of the college guys I wasn't on his team because he came after me, but some of those guys used to do the diamond cutter from Diamond Dallas Page.

Yeah, they used to do that when they would make an important putt or shot on the golf course, just to sort of be funny. And when Kuch got on the Ryder Cup team, they all said, you're going to have to drop the diamond cutter at the Ryder Cup. We want you to make sure everyone knows about that.

So the first night we were in the team room playing ping pong, all the veterans, we kind of know who's the best at the ping pong and we kind of know the hierarchy where everyone falls.

Q. From past years??

STEWART CINK: From past years, but the new guys that's the question marks, so everybody's gotta size up who all is good. And it didn't take long for us all to figure out that Matt Kuchar was the best one in the room. He beat everybody.

And there was one in particular match where he played against Phil, and Phil was getting frustrated because he doesn't like to lose, and I know that surprises everyone here. He doesn't like to lose, and Kuch was getting Phil's slams back like a backboard and just getting shot after shot after shot back. And finally Phil hit one in the net and just completely lost it, and Kuch did a big diamond cutter, while we were all watching. And that was sort of the introduction of the diamond cutter to all of us and we all wondered what it was.

Then we Googled it. Then, strangely enough, Sunday night football we were watching, and we were watching the Steelers, and who was it. It may have been Randle El. I think it was Antwaan Randle El got a first down reception, about 11 yards at an important part of maybe the third quarter and gave a diamond cutter on TV while we were all sitting around watching it, unrehearsed.

So that's the history of the diamond cutter. Apparently Kuch dropped a pretty good one after that putt on 17.

Q. The peanut butter putt.

STEWART CINK: Yeah. The peanut butter putt. But I didn't see it. But we challenged Tiger to give us a diamond cutter on that par 3 when I don't remember which match it was, but we were playing towards the back, me and Kuch, and we were playing best ball, and Tiger had won his match, I think earlier, and came out and was watching on that hole. And we had both put it about 25, 30 feet. Kuch goes, "if one of these putts goes in, Tiger, you gotta drop the diamond cutter for us." And I missed mine, but Kuch made it, and I turned around in time to see Tiger do the diamond cutter. It was kind of weak, though.

Q. He is a team player.

STEWART CINK: He is a team player.

Q. Before we let you go, the way that it was a rough ending in the final match, and the way he handled that and what was said to him to help him get over that hump in the team room after, you know, his pretty public breakdown there in front of us, what were you guys able to do to help get him over the hump, if anything??

STEWART CINK: The whole team basically echoed the same kind of thoughts that we came as a team, and one match didn't matter any more than any other match. It just happened that his was the last one out there, and it's unfair for him or for anybody else to put that kind of burden on him when we all had moments where we failed to convert putts or we allowed our opponents some breathing room that they didn't really need to have. I know I did.

And it's just not it's too much for one person to bear, and Hunter's not the easiest guy to crack like that. He's tough to he's not really his vulnerability, he kind of hides it away. So that's why I used that venue at the press conference at the Ryder Cup because I thought that might be the only shot of getting to him without he didn't have a chance to run away.

But basically that was the way the whole team reacted is keep your head up, and hey, you can't blame yourself because we all lost this thing. We lost it. We didn't lose it on that singles day. We lost it the day before. And we dug ourselves a big hole.

But it was a tough moment for him being in the last match with it that close. It's rare that the Ryder Cup comes down to that, and it did, and it was just unfortunate that he didn't win, but it's not his fault.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: We've got a special announcement here, so please, everybody keep your seats. Stewart, thank you very much.

STEWART CINK: You're welcome.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Good luck this week.

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