Humana Challenge interview: Stewart Cink

January 19, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Humana Challenge transcripts archive

JOE CHEMYCZ:  We welcome Stewart Cink into our interview area.
Stewart, nice 6‑under par today.  Three good rounds put together so far.  Maybe just talk about today first of all and then we'll get to the rest of the week.
Today, the weather's just so perfect out there, I mean there really is no way to improve the conditions that you're playing under out there.  It's the very best it could possibly be.

Q.  You must have some complaint.
STEWART CINK:  I can't.  Maybe my lips are chapped.  That's about it.  Humidity could come up just a little, little bit.  No, it was a good, solid round, I hit a lot of fairway.
These courses, even though the scoring is low, there's danger out there.  And if you get a little crooked off the tee, then you're going to put yourself into penalty situations.  So if you keep it out of the penalty situations, you're going to have a lot of looks at birdie and you can shoot some pretty low scores and you don't have to be spectacular.
And that's what I did today especially.  It was just an unspectacular round of 6‑under par where I took advantage of my opportunities here and there and made one or two pretty good saves.  But it was pretty nondescript round to be honest.  But I'm pleased with the way it's been going this week.

Q.  Nice save on the par‑3 on the back nine?
STEWART CINK:  That was a good momentum boost, just because I hit such a poor tee shot with a short iron.  I've been hitting the irons really well all week and that was kind of a shocker to be honest.  To see where it ended up, I had almost no chance of getting the ball close, so I played the percentage shot to give myself a chance to make a par and really just avoid making a five.  That was the point there and happened to make a good putt.  It was a good thing for my momentum.

Q.  Is it often you describe a round of 6‑under as nondescript?
STEWART CINK:  It's not very often, but around here, it will happen.  With weather like this on these courses, it's just‑‑ it felt a little bit nondescript, to be honest.  It just wasn't a spectacular type round.  I didn't have any real big stretches where it was awesome golf.  It was just a good solid round and I didn't cost myself any shots here and there.
I didn't really ‑‑ it wasn't spectacular, but it was a good round, and that's a good thing.  Because there were times in my career recently where a round like this on any course would have felt quite spectacular, but today it just felt like it was a pretty smooth day.

Q.  You've been in this tournament and not in this tournament through the years at various times, is there anything in particular that brought you back and, yes, that's a specific question about the format changes here?
STEWART CINK:  The format change had nothing to do with it.  I would have been here this year if it was five rounds.  It doesn't have anything to do with it.  Although, I like the improvements Humana's made to the tournament.  They're treating you us really, really well.  There's some really great refreshment areas on all three courses and we appreciate that very much.

Q.  Where are they?
STEWART CINK:  I think the media one is out across the street in the dusty parking lot (smiling).
But I'm here because of scheduling and I really wanted to play a lot early this year, and this tournament happens to be the second one I was in on the season.
So it has nothing to do with the format, although I like the new format and I like what they're doing here, and Humana is committed to it.

Q.  The leaderboard has a bit of a Georgia Tech flare to it.  Can you talk about Roberto, how much you know, have gotten to know him over the years, and what is it like to just have you both up there like that?
STEWART CINK:  It's always good to see another guy wearing your colors up there.  I know Roberto pretty well.  He's a lot younger than I am, so we never played that much together, and, in fact, I haven't played much with him at all, so I don't know that much about his game.
But I do know that he's a really well‑read individual, he's a sharp guy.  And he's probably good for a decent quote I would think.  Keep that in your notebook.  He's a nice guy and he's from Atlanta, so we see each other at home every now and then, but I haven't played that much golf with him.

Q.  As a follow‑up, you're not old by any stretch, but when you see all the young players on the first page of the leaderboard, does it make you feel older than your years?
STEWART CINK:  I think every year I feel a little bit older, and like I should‑‑ I'm almost 40 and there's a lot of those guys up there that are just barely 20.  But I was there.  I've been out here playing since I was 22.  So I was one of those guys at one time, and that's just the nature of this game.  It speaks to the longevity of what golf could allow you to do in your career.

Q.  When we came in here, you were five shots off the lead.  If that remains the same, how easy will that be to make up?  Will it be easier on these courses ‑‑ on the PGA course tomorrow than other places?
STEWART CINK:  It's probably harder on the PGA, on this in this format, just because you just don't have quite the opportunity for the leader to come back to you.  You're going to have to take over the lead.  And a poor round tomorrow, assuming the weather is like this, is still going to be like around 1‑ or 2‑under par.  And that's a poor round.
So you're going to have to go out there and really be aggressive and play well and really make some putts and stay aggressive.

Q.  So winning this will be hard for you tomorrow?
STEWART CINK:  Well, yeah, you're five shots back on a course where the leader is probably not going to back up very much at all.  If we were at Torrey South, like next week, there's a chance a guy with a five‑shot lead or I don't know who is second, but a five shot‑‑

Q.  You're in second.
STEWART CINK:  A five‑shot deficit could come back in the first nine holes because there's some more bogey holes, but here you wouldn't expect that quite as much.
But we'll see.  You got to play all the golf holes.

Q.  You mentioned you're 40.  These guys are 20.  What's the toughest part about trying to win at this stage of your career?  Fighting yourself or fighting the fact that there are all these young guys out here who think 20‑under is no big deal?
STEWART CINK:  Well, first of all, in golf you never fight the other players, you're always fighting yourself.  That's what the biggest challenge of the game is.
So as you get older, I don't feel any older when I'm out there playing golf.  I just feel like I'm a golfer.  And I don't care.  I don't think the golf ball or my clubs care, or the course.  I don't feel like I'm 40 and they're 25.
In fact, I think it gives me a little bit of an advantage having experience and knowing how my body's going to react and my brain's going to react, because I've been there a lot of times.  And it's something that just doesn't ever go away.  If I was breaking down physically, I would feel old, but I don't.  I don't feel that way because I'm not.  I'm in okay shape and I don't hit the ball short.  I'm adequate length.
It has nothing to do with age.  It's more of an experience thing.  And those guys are probably fearless because they have youth.  And over the years, golf, I think, probably gives you some scarring inside your brain so you have a little bit of fear here and there.
But I learned how to deal with all that stuff, and I'm prepared tomorrow to have some nerves and be anxious about some shots and just have to deal with it one shot at a time.

Q.  Who faces the greater challenge trying to win tomorrow, you coming back from five strokes or the Falcons?
STEWART CINK:  Well, the Falcons are about a four‑and‑a‑half point underdog, and does that translate into a five‑shot deficit?  I'm probably a 14‑point underdog tomorrow with a five‑shot deficit.  So I think I have a bigger challenge than they do.  They have Matt Ryan.  I don't have another person to be my quarterback tomorrow.  I have to be my own quarterback and receiver.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about your game, and I know the last couple years have been a little frustrating, and what are you doing differently now?
STEWART CINK:  I started working with the coach at my home course in Sugarloaf named Mike Lipnick, L‑i‑p‑n‑i‑c‑k, Mike Lipnick.  And he and I just kind of went back to fundamentals at the end of last year, and I asked him one day, to take a look at my swing and tell me what he thought was different from five years ago, and also tell me what my strengths and weaknesses were.
We worked for about 30 minutes and he looked at me and said, "To be honest with you, I don't see a lot of strengths here."  So that was kind of a‑‑ it was a little bit of a wake‑up call for me because I still felt like I had some strengths, at least.
But he said, "I don't really see it.  You're not really doing a whole lot of good stuff right now.  You're not helping yourself out."
What I took from that was that he was prepared to be pretty honest with me and he wasn't going to sugarcoat just because I'm an experienced veteran TOUR player and he was a teacher at a local club, that he's not been in the top 100 list very many times, if any.  I don't think he has.
So we just started working on some fundamental stuff and getting back to more basic stuff that I came out on TOUR with and a little more setup‑oriented type of changes where I'm unlocking my potential to swing the club the right way at the setup and not by trying to make some motion with my upper body or arms or anything.
It's a process that I'm still in sort of the very beginning stages of.  But out here, I think that you're playing, even though one round and one shot are sometimes very important, you're still trying to play the percentages, where out of a thousand shots, you want the highest number of those to be good.  And that's what I'm after.
I'm after that overriding quality, not necessarily go out there tomorrow and shoot a 26 from the first tee box.  So this is just part of the steps that I need to take to get comfortable being in contention and trusting myself and trusting my swing and what I'm doing with Mike.

Q.  Did you think it would happen this quickly?
STEWART CINK:  Did I think what?

Q.  It would happen this quickly.
STEWART CINK:  Well, I was playing really well in the offseason.  I was really in control and I felt like I was doing some good stuff.  But then Sony, I missed the cut and I was really frustrated by that, because I felt like I was going to go out to Sony and play well, and I really didn't play well at all.
So coming here this week, I was a little frustrated.  And the first two days of practice really weren't that great either, and to be honest, I didn't expect this.
But I just kind of committed myself to just going one shot at a time and staying completely committed to being in the present and it's been ‑‑ I've hit a lot of really nice shots this week and the biggest thing, though, is my putter has been pretty warm this week.

Q.  How do you go from winging a Major to having not a lot of good things in your game?  How does that happen?
STEWART CINK:  Well, I just think that golf is not a static entity and you can change a little bit to go from ‑‑ to go from a Major winner, even though now 2009, when I won the Major, that year overall was not a very good year for me.  The one major win was obviously great, but the rest of the year stunk.
And so I had had already started to sort of decline a little bit in my performances and I had stopped trusting what I was doing.  The ball was really telling me that I shouldn't really be very trustful of what I was doing because it wasn't going where I wanted it to go.
So when you're out here playing against the best players top to bottom every week, it doesn't take much of a fall to end up where I ended up the last couple years and so I'm trying to dig myself back to the top.

Q.  How do you not notice those things until your pro told you?  Did it just happen so gradually that it feels normal to you?
STEWART CINK:  Yes.  Exactly.  It happens very gradually and you don't notice it until, like going back to what we said a minute ago about the thousand shots, every set of a thousand shots, a new pattern starts to sort of evolve.  You don't notice that while it's happening.  But when you go back and analyze, son of a gun, I missed a lot of fairways left and right.
The best players out here are missing fairways one way or the other more often.  Eliminating one side of the course.  And it's hard to play with shots that are going both ways.  And that's kind of where I was.  I was having trouble off the tee and my short game wasn't very reliable.  That's areas where you just really have to be on out here to be competitive.

Q.  So was it big adjustments you had to make or just some little adjustments that are correcting things?
STEWART CINK:  Remember I'm just in the start of this.  So my adjustments have been pretty small, setup mainly.  The setup is unlocking what my swing should naturally do.  And there's going to be days like I had at Sony where they aren't good and there's going to be days where the last couple that have been pretty good.
But for the most part, it's just been a small setup change where I have to keep my balance right and try to rotate instead of moving laterally.

JOE CHEMYCZ:  Stewart, thank you.  Play well tomorrow.

STEWART CINK:  All right.  Thank you.