Shell Houston Open interview: Stewart Cink

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March 30, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Shell Houston Open transcript archive

DOUG MILNE: All right. Stewart, thanks for joining us for a few minutes, 4-under, 68 today in Round 3 of the Shell Houston Open. Just some comments on the round and then we'll take some questions.

STEWART CINK: Okay. Well, yeah, today was a good round. It could have been a really, really good round as yesterday and the day before have also been. Hit the ball pretty well and made a lot of good decisions out there first couple of days.

So, you know, the numbers aren't really, really low, but they're low enough to be right in the thick of this thing. So I would -- hopefully tomorrow I can be a little comfortable and get some feel and flow on the greens because I've been sort of fighting fall back. I've had some really good, comfortable putts out there that I felt great on, and then I've had some that were very, sort of non-committal, I guess. It obviously shows. The ball never lies.

I like to have a few of those back. Tomorrow is a great learning opportunity for me and to get out there and be nervous and perform and try to stay in the moment and let it happen. I can't wait.

DOUG MILNE: You mentioned out there. I guess you were in the final round at Humana, five shots back, I believe. Is it something that -- are you able to even draw from that, knowing final group, five shots back, and just how it feels to be back in the final group?

STEWART CINK: Yeah. Whether you're five shots back or tied or whatever, you're still -- you're -- you got the juices flowing, no doubt about it, when you're in contention for a win or just a really good finish. I think if anybody out here says they're not nervous when they're five shots back and they're in second place, they're lying, they're lying.

I'll be nervous and I definitely will not be ignoring the fact that I'll feel a little bit nervous tomorrow, but that's just natural human behavior and I'm looking forward to it. To get back in the hunt is what you play golf for when you're out on the PGA TOUR. It's a lot of fun and hard work, but I can't wait.

Q. So many players in contention, practically half the field, is that harder or easier? Easier to focus on shooting one guy or to throw yourself into a mad scramble?

STEWART CINK: It's a little bit easier because it almost forces you by the nature of it to really sort of be inward and focus on what you're doing and not what somebody else is doing.

When there's just a couple scattered around the lead, you got a couple strokes between the next several guys, you feel a little bit more tendency to get into the future a little bit and try to control things. When it's a log jam like this, I believe it's easier to sort of focus on your thing and be a little bit more efficient. That's the vast, vast majority of us work better is by sort of just being inward.

Q. Tunnel vision.

STEWART CINK: Yeah, tunnel vision. Focus what we can control, the pre-shot routine and decision-making. After that, you let it go and the ball sort of just has a mind of its own in a way.

Q. Do you feel relieved at all as far as for the year? You've had a couple years of struggling, you've been working on stuff, pretty good scores this year, coming around? Do you feel you got a handle on it now and just a matter of time or kind of where is your game at? It's been pretty good shape this week?

STEWART CINK: Yes, but I would never say I've got a handle on it. I think that's just a big jinx. It has been a pleasure to say I've had control and to post a few good rounds. Gives me a little bit of confidence I'm going in the right direction and I'm working my way, trending in a good way.

And just the fact that I'm in position to win here, you know, be late in the groups on Sunday, it's just -- it affirms where I'm going and gives me confidence. Sort of in philosophical kind of way.

Q. How much more are you enjoying this year after last couple?

STEWART CINK: Well, I'm enjoying, you know, in a microcosm kind of way, I'm enjoying hitting shots I tried to hit. That's the main thing. I'm enjoying hitting some drivers that look nice and I'm enjoying hitting some 6-irons and some wedges and some putts and some short games shots are the way I'm playing.

I just had a couple of bad years of execution out here, and I've always been a good decision-maker and just had a couple of rough years of executing, and it's good to see the ball go where I'm planning for it to go more often, and, you know, by no stretch am I saying I'm out of the woods, but it feels good to do a little bit more.

Q. Stewart, how much do you think being there Sunday at Humana can help you going into tomorrow?

STEWART CINK: It can help some because it's not like a whoa, that is new thing for me, I haven't been here since 2000 whatever, three years ago, two years ago. So, I have been there and I remember performing pretty well there until I didn't finish that well, but I played really well for most of the round and I'll draw on that.

I'll just get myself to go out there and stay, like I said a minute ago, inward on the shots and control what I can control and just be committed. It's going to be a great today tomorrow, anyway, it's Easter, and it's a big day in my family. We're going to be joyful tomorrow and just walk the way and have a good time.

Q. Playing with a guy like Bill who is playing well, is that the tide lifting all boats, does that come into play a little bit?

STEWART CINK: It doesn't really have anything to do with it. You can play with a guy that shoots 79 and still have a great round, or the other way is also true. But playing with a guy like Bill is great because he's a guy like Bill. He's talkative. He's so easy to get along with and very -- he's always the same. So, I like to think that I'm that way, too. He and I mix real well and know each other fairly well and he's a good guy to be with.

Q. Same barber (laughter).

STEWART CINK: Same barber. Self barber.

Q. Lisa here?

STEWART CINK: Lisa is not here. My son had wisdom teeth out Friday. He's tender. She's taking care of him.

Q. Are you hearing the song you alluded to earlier, are you hearing it from the fans?

STEWART CINK: The Crane song? Yeah, a lot.

Q. Did you get some today, too?

STEWART CINK: A lot. The younger people, mainly. It's great. I love it.

Q. Is it a good thing?

STEWART CINK: It's a great thing.

Q. Ben mentioned the day the song came same out, you saw it on the text messages?

STEWART CINK: Tons, yeah. It's good. It's fun. I'm glad they mention me in the songs. Ben told me they were going to back at Sony. I guess my name lends itself to using it in a poetic kind of way. (Laughter).

Q. You said you're a good decision-maker. The first round you had 17 pars, you didn't have a bogey the first two days. Were you kind of under the radar a little bit and, boom, there you are on top of the scoreboard. With so many people on the leaderboard so close, do you have to play a little more aggressive to separate yourself tomorrow or just kind of playing the way you've been playing?

STEWART CINK: I don't think you change anything like that until maybe the last, somewhere between 5 and 10 holes. Let's say tomorrow somebody from 9-under goes out there and shoots 29 on the front-9, they're 16 under. Now, you start thinking well, okay, if I want to win, you can't play to the center of the green -- I don't want the say we're all playing very safe out there. It's easy to explain 17 pars and one birdie the first round. I wasn't striking the ball quite as well as I have lately, and I did the last two days and a lot of my shots were missed just towards the safer side. I had a lot of 25 to 40-foot birdie putts.

These are big greens out here, but the pins are always shoved way over to the edge. You can hit it in the middle of the green all day and have a round like that. That's what I did. Last two days I felt a little bit of a groove with my swing and was able to kind of narrow down that gap between the middle of the green and the hole a little bit. Hit a slot of shots 15 feet, 10 feet and a foot.

So, you know, proximity to the hole means a lot, and if you're swinging well and feel confident, you can aim closer to the flags and -- but I don't think that really change anything until you notice that someone has kind of run away to hide and then you got to go catch them. Then you might sacrifice the chance of hitting the ball in one of these lakes beside the green to try to get one close, yeah.

Q. I'm going to look way ahead to next year. If you're still playing well next year, can you appreciate the story line of you're trying to make Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team?

STEWART CINK: I definitely don't need to be picked, I guess. I'm just kidding. No. Yeah, that would be an interesting story line for sure. I'd love to play for Tom. He's great. He handled that British Open really well, and I think he probably thinks I handled it well and it was just -- we handled it like golfers would handle things, you know.

Q. What was your highlight shot moment of today's round?

STEWART CINK: Today's highlight shot. Goodness. Well, I started off -- I hit the ball so well on the first 6 holes and got nothing out of it. Had some opportunities for birdies and didn't make putts. I was kind of starting to come on, and then so I made about a 15-footer on 7. Pretty non-descript putt, it won't make anybody else's highlight reel. But today that was my highlight reel. When that ball went in the front edge and sort of opened things up, I calmed down a little bit and off we went.

So, sometimes those little things that happen during the day mean a lot, more than the scoreboard could indicate.

Q. Was last year the first time you came here to play Redstone?

STEWART CINK: Yes.

Q. What led into that decision? Did it fit into your schedule?

STEWART CINK: Last year I honestly don't remember what went into the decision. I don't remember. But I do remember enjoying it quite a bit. I loved the practice area. I like the convenience of the area. It's easy for the airport, for hotels and all that, and the conditioning of the course leading up to the Masters is fantastic. I can't say enough about the job they do. It's incredible.

So that led into me coming back this year, and I'm obviously -- you know, I played poorly last year, I made the cut by one shot, but I was excited to come back.

Q. Does it help in your preparation for the Masters?

STEWART CINK: I think so. The fact that they mimic the cuts on the fairways and the second cut, or whatever, the rough, doesn't really help that much because it's not like you have the adjust to that kind of grass. It's perfect grass. It's like hitting off as Astro-turf. So you don't have to really adjust for that. Your shots around the greens, chipping off the tight lies and a lot of putting from a little longer off the fringe than you might normally, definitely is something that comes into play at Augusta. So, it can help.

Q. Talking about Augusta, no matter what happens tomorrow, how good is it to be on top of your game heading into a Major like Augusta?

STEWART CINK: Yeah. It's good to feel confident going into a course like that because that course just demands a lot of really bold plays. You can't just -- you want wuss it around there. The course will just chew you up and spit you out. It's done that to me quite a bit in my career.

So it's good to go into there with some confident memories of recent, and you never know what's going to happen, but I think the Masters is the pinnacle of the professional game and any American would probably like to win it the most of anything else.

Q. Can you expound on that point a little bit?

STEWART CINK: Lot of things. For me, I live in Georgia. I've grown up with it. A lot of my earliest memories in watching the pros play golf were from the Masters. It's the one Major that stays the same course, and, you know, the course is so special. There's a lot of Georgia Tech connections, Bobby Jones and all that. So there's a lot of reasons that I believe it's the pinnacle.

Q. Do you know Steve Wheatcroft?

STEWART CINK: No.

Q. Could you pick him out of a lineup?

STEWART CINK: Yes. I don't know him very well.

DOUG MILNE: Last thing, Stewart, five birdies, one bogey. Your only bogey all week. Running through your birdies.

STEWART CINK: We already adjusted -- we already addressed the first 6 that were all like very make makeable birdies putts. I didn't make a single one of them. Then 7, 15-footer from a 9-iron in there to 15 feet.

8, I hit it on it the green in two, driver in the fairway, 4-iron about 40 feet, two-putted.

11, 3-wood to the fairway, 9-iron about 15 feet. 12, I lay up and then hit a nice little wedge in there about 4 feet.

And then 14 I made a real physical mistake there. Hit a big hook with the 7-iron into the left bunker which wasn't the place to go, and a good bunker shot but missed about an 8-footer for par. First bogey of the week. Kind of relieved to get it out of the way.

Then 15, fairway bunker off the tee but no problems. Laid up just left of the fairway. Good angle, hit a wedge about 10 feet and made a good putt there, and other than my score not being on the 18th hole, which was a par, made a great up and down there to save par from the right bunker.

You're looking at a lot of green, a flag stick and basically one of those disappearing edges to infinity, nothing but evil lurks beyond that hole. To hit a bunker shot that almost goes in and goes 2 feet past was really relieving.

DOUG MILNE: Okay. Stewart, congratulations. We appreciate your time. 

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