Cink reminisces about 2009 Open win over Watson
July 12, 2014
By Craig DeVrieze, PGATOUR.COM
- Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a playoff in 2009 at Turnberry. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
SILVIS, Ill. – The 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry may forever be remembered as the Open that Tom Watson lost, not the Open that Stewart Cink won.
Golf just isn’t fair sometimes.
Much to his credit, Cink never has let others’ perceptions of that historic day in Scotland affect his own enjoyment of what he accomplished by making birdie on his final hole in regulation, then besting the 59-year-old eight-time major winner in a four-hole aggregate playoff.
The 41-year-old Cink will compete in next week’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, still looking to add to his sixth career PGA TOUR win five years after that memorable turn of events at Turnberry.
He discussed his Open Championship win with PGATOUR.COM while competing at the John Deere Classic.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s the state of your game as you look forward to the British Open?
CINK: “I have been working on the same things with my coach, Mike Lipnick, for going on two years now and I feel pretty good with where my swing is. I’m hitting a lot of solid shots. I still occasionally revert back to my old stuff which produces bad things. But mostly pretty good. I have played solid since around the Florida part of the schedule. Getting into contention early in tournaments. I just need to kind of get comfortable being there again, and stay out of my own way and allow it to happen. This week has been good, being paired with Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth the first two days. Playing well and getting the juices going a little bit has been good. I need that.”
PGATOUR.COM: Is there anything similar to the way you’re playing now as when you went to Turnberry five years ago?
CINK: “I was worse five years ago. Way worse. The beginning of 2009 was one of the worst parts of my career. The second half of ’08 through the first half of ’09 was dreadful. I had no expectations or confidence at all before that Open. You know I sort of caught lightning in a bottle for four days and played really well. My decision-making and my course management, that kind of stuff, has always been really good. But that week, I had a really good ball-striking and execution week, and that’s what you need on an Open Championship course.”
PGATOUR.COM: Does it tend to just come out of nowhere sometimes?
CINK: “It can. If you’re good it comes that way sometimes. I think really good players can sort of just pop up out of nowhere. I think of a guy like Mickelson. He’s had a really rough early part of this year. And, you know, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he’s able to win next week. A guy like that will just find a spark and that’s how it works. Sometimes guys just play great for three months without a win and then suddenly, they break through.
PGATOUR.COM: Was there a shot or shots that gave you that spark five years ago?
CINK: “Yeah. But not in the way you’re asking. I think a key shot for me over there was on the seventh hole on Saturday, a par 5. I was on the green in two and had an eagle putt of about 25 feet and I almost made the putt. It just rolled past. When I went to finish, I missed. I lipped it out. And at times in my career, I have shown an unwillingness to accept that kind of thing, to get real flustered by that. And it leads sometimes to a stretch of bad holes. Well, that day, I don’t know where it came from, but I gave myself a lot of forgiveness and acceptance. It’s like I gave myself a pat on the back, like ‘Hey, you know what? It’s windy out here. And the greens aren’t … I mean, you’re basically putting on cut-down native weeds.’ And so, I just moved on. I didn’t let it bother me. So, maybe not what you’d think, but a key shot that week was a 2-foot putt that I missed in Saturday’s round when I was in contention. I handled it much better than I might have previously.”
PGATOUR.COM: This is the difficult question. What was/is it like being the guy who took down Watson?
CINK: “Oh, it didn’t matter. When you’re inside the ropes trying to win, it doesn’t matter if you are playing against Tom Watson or Joe Schmoe. It doesn’t matter. You’re just trying to do your best and win. I played really well. Tom was writing a wonderful story and his being up there all day on Sunday probably led to me being more calm and relaxed because I was focused a little bit on what he was doing, and it served as a really good, harmless distraction for me. It drew me away from my golf between shots and got me thinking about something else. I didn’t waste a lot of energy between shots, grinding on what’s coming up next. I have been asked that question a million times. Tom’s fine with it. I’m fine with it. And I think the public mostly isn’t fine with it. But that’s OK. I don’t play golf to try to please everybody. If I did, maybe I would have just thrown it for Watson. But I’m not that sentimental. I thought he had won enough majors, and I wanted to win mine.”
PGATOUR.COM: Can you talk about the great parts of being the Champion Golfer of the Year?
CINK: “It’s just cool. Hockey is my favorite sport outside golf – I never played it, but I love watching it. And being the Open Championship winner, I think, is the closest you’ll ever come to being a Stanley Cup winner because you get to carry the jug around for a year. That was really cool to be able to take the Claret Jug with me all over the place. I took it around Atlanta. I took it to golf tournaments. I just took it everywhere. The clubs I have membership at in Atlanta all got it for a month to display and, during that time, there was some activity with it by the members, which was fine. That’s why I gave it to them. So, it was really cool to be able to share that with my community. And I think they appreciated it, too.”
PGATOUR.COM: What is the most interesting thing that may have occurred with the Jug? That you can talk about, anyway?
CINK: “Well, I don’t know how interesting it is to anyone else, but, as a lot of people know, I love barbecue and I love to cook barbecue especially. So on the Fourth of July, right before I left home to return it, me and my best friend, who also is one of my cooking partners, cooked a pork shoulder and we basted the shoulder for the whole 12 hours right out of the Claret Jug, poured right on top out of the Jug for 12 hours.”
PGATOUR.COM: Did it taste better?
CINK: “It tasted a little metallic. But I didn’t care. We got some great pictures of the cooker being open and the pork shoulder being a beautiful color, and me and my friend Chad Parker, pouring the basting – Sop Mop, we call it – right over the top of it out of the Claret Jug. That was awesome.”
PGATOUR.COM: What do you remember about Royal Liverpool?
CINK: “The racetrack inside the golf course. It’s built around a racetrack. No. 3 and No. 18 go around this track. And it’s OB. It catches your attention, bigtime. It’s a part of the course and it is unique. Every course over there has its own unique features and when we played there in ’06, it was the first time the Open Championship had been there in a long, long time. So no one knew much about it but it is an absolutely fabulous golf course. They all are. If you like one Open venue, you definitely like them all. And you really like Hoylake.
PGATOUR.COM: Can anybody play Hoylake like the last winner did? Can you just sting it around like Tiger Woods?
CINK: “Oh yeah you can if it’s dry. But if it’s dry, you can do that on any of those courses. But if it’s wet, you can’t do it on any of them. So it just depends on the weather. If you’re getting a lot of roll, you can do that. And that’s the way to play it if you’re getting a lot of roll because you know if you hit between the rough and the bunkers, it’s going to roll 300 yards. And that makes every course short. All those courses, depending on the wind, if it’s 260 to reach the bunkers, you can hit driver because it’s dead into the wind. There’s some holes where it is 360 and you can’t hit driver, because it’s downwind. You’ve got to play smart, position golf. They talk over here about playing target golf. Well, true target golf I believe is a links course.”
PGATOUR.COM: You have handled your Championship win being overshadowed a bit by the fact you beat Watson better, it seems, than a lot of people might. Do you think you are better equipped to accept that than some others might be?
CINK: “I don’t think I’m better equipped for that than somebody else might be. That comes from just being the player, and not the fan. It’s a different perspective when you are the player because you don’t care. It doesn’t matter. As nice as guys are out here to each other – and I’m looking at the putting green right now and some of my best friends are over there practicing, but I want to step on their throats. Right now. I want to beat them so bad. That’s just the way it is. And they are the same way about me.”
PGATOUR.COM: But after it was over, was there a feeling your accomplishment was overshadowed a bit by who you beat?
CINK: “Yeah. Maybe so. But I don’t see it like that. The way I see it is people probably tuned in to watch golf that day who probably wouldn’t have tuned in to watch if it was guys on the leaderboard who are always there. But Tom Watson was the leader, so people tuned in. And when they tuned in to see Watson, they saw me. It turned out I got a little bit more attention than I would have had it been one of my age-group peers I was battling against.”
PGATOUR.COM: Have you ever sat down in a quiet corner and talked about that Open with Tom?
CINK: “We haven’t. But we met on the stairwell that night after the playoff was over. His wife and him and my wife and I. We passed by each other. And we just stopped for a few moments. He told me a few quick stories and we reminisced about the day. But championship golf is not really a reminiscing type thing. I didn’t want to dwell on it with Watson because he had just lost. He probably didn’t want to keep me from celebrating with my friends, wife and kids. We were both respectful of each other, just like we were the whole playoff.”
PGATOUR.COM: Do you feel more eager, maybe, to validate, to win another championship? Has winning one major championship changed your mindset at all about winning another?
CINK: “Yeah. It has. I wouldn’t say validate, though. Winning a major championship doesn’t need validation. You would like to win because you know what it feels like to win. It’s like a drug. You win, you get it, and suddenly you can’t get enough of it. So I know what it felt like. And that’s the reason I want to win more. Because I know I have what it takes to do it. And every tournament I don’t win. I feel like I have just gotten in my way too much. The fields are so good out here, it’s hard to be in contention all the time. But once a win comes, you just don’t ever want that to be your last one because it feels so good.”