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35, reached a career peak when he beat Tom
Watson in a four-hole playoff to wn this year’s British Open at Turnberry. Born
in Huntsville, Alabama, Cink attended Georgia Tech and turned professional in
1995. After winning the Mexican Open and three events on the now Nationwide
Tour in 1996, Cink joined the PGA Tour in 1997 and won the Canon Greater
Hartford Open in his rookie year. Cink has performed consistently on the Tour.
His best year came in 2004 when he finished fifth on the money list and posted
wins at the MCI Heritage and WGC-NEC Invitational. In 2008, he reached his
highest ever ranking, sixth, in the Official World Golf Rankings and posted
another win at the now Travelers Championship outside of Hartford, Ct. The
British Open win in July of this year marked his first career major. I recently
had a chance to catch up with Stewart.
What’s going on in your life? I was on the Internet doing a little research
last night and I stumbled upon this tweeter or twitter. What’s that business
Stewart: It’s called Twitter. My son describes
it as a bare bones face book. It’s just a way to let my personality come out
and give some information about my life that doesn’t have to do with 8-irons or
drivers, to a fan base out there that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve been
doing it for about three months and it’s been pretty popular out there. There
are a lot of people that want to know different things about my life and I
describe it. It’s been a lot of fun.
Matt: Again, I don’t know anything about it but I stumbled
upon the name and opened up the segment. Is it like a stream of consciousness?
You’re driving down the road and you log in and you say it’s a beautiful day?
Stewart: It is and that’s just how it’s
continued to be. If something happens in my life that I think that somebody
might be interested in and if I can connect with somebody out there then I’ll
put it on. Sometimes it’s about the round, like if the greens are really hard
that day or if the wind was blowing. Some times if I’m checking on a new piece
of equipment like a driver, a putter or ball or whatever, and some times it
nothing about golf. In fact the majority of my stuff has nothing to do with
golf because I’ve already got the golf thing taken care of. People can see it
on television and on the Internet. A way to really connect with the people is
to give them a glimpse of what your personal life is all about. It has just
been a lot of fun to just sort of put things out there and see the responses
come back and read what people feel because they feel like you’re a little bit
Matt: It’s kind of keeping with the theme of my
program anyway, connecting with as a human being. It’s not only about the grand
stage but what you do outside of that and along those lines. How are you
getting along and how has the celebrity status of being one of the best golfers
in this world settled on you? How does that suit you day in and day out?
Stewart: I have to remind myself daily that being asked
to appear at charity functions and doing signings in the mail are a true
blessing. It’s easy to wake up and say you have got so many things to do that
day. If you think of it as a drag then that’s the totally wrong way to look at
it. I just try to embrace all those things. I can’t say yes to everything. But
when I get a request to show up and do a clinic or donate an auction item, host
a dinner, I see that as a compliment and a blessing. My faith is a huge part of
what I do every day of my life. It’s tough being separated from my wife and
kids on the road all the time now my kids are 15 and 12. I’m lonely out here,
so just like a lot of people that play golf or that host radio shows I’m sure
you can identify. It’s not just a glamorous lifestyle. I do laundry just as
often as my shorts need.
Matt: Can you talk in general about winning a
major? I know you felt you've been good enough to win a major for a while and
this being a long time coming and how much you needed this?
Stewart: Well, how
much I needed it, I don't know--I'm not sure I really thought much about
whether I was good enough to win a major or not. I knew I'd been close a few
times, but I never really heard my name tossed in there with the group of best
ones not to have won. So maybe I was starting to believe that, that I wasn't
one of the best ones to never have won a major.
But for some reason
I just believed all week that I had something good. My swing felt great. I was
hitting the ball solidly. I was curving it the right direction, and that was so
important there. And I just felt so calm. I never even felt nervous at all. I
mean, literally I did not feel nervous in a situation that in the past I would
be extremely nervous. I just felt calm. I felt like I was just totally at peace
about whatever happened because I was proud of how I played. Somebody at a
major championship always has that calm peace about them and I had it.
Matt: I'm sure you thought highly of Tom
Watson growing up, maybe watched him or idolized him, what have you. But could
you ever have dreamed you were going to go head-to-head with him? It just
doesn't seem possible, obviously.
Stewart: Well, going
way back, no, I would never have dreamed that I would go head-to-head against
Tom Watson in a playoff for a major championship. That would be beyond even my
mind's imagination capabilities.
But after playing
with him in the practice round with him this year at The Masters I would have
told you that I don't really ever want to go up against him head-to-head
because of the way he hits it. He's so solid, and he hits the right shot. He
just plays under control. The same Tom Watson that won the British Open in,
what was it, 1977, the same guy showed up there and he just about did it. He
beat everybody but one guy. And it was really special. But no, I never thought
in my wildest dreams I would be playing against Tom Watson.
Matt: Given the way Tom owned the week did a part
of you feel as though you came in at the end of a syrupy, sentimental Hollywood
movie and stole the girl at the end?
Stewart: Well, as
long as the result was that I got the girl I was okay with that. No, I don't
feel that way. I feel like that whether Tom was 59 or 29, you know, he was one
of the field and I had to play against everybody on the field and the course to
come out on top. I don't think anything can be taken away. Somebody may
disagree with that, but it's going to be hard to convince me.
Matt: Your closest call in a major before
the British Open would have been at the U.S. Open in 2001 at Southern Hills.
Did the 2001 Open linger for a while? Has it ever been something that you've
thought about since and wondered about if that maybe was going to be your best
Stewart: Yeah, of course. I think that would be--it wouldn't be human
to not wonder if, you know, think would another one come along--is that going
to be my closest one. So, yeah, there were always some doubts there. But there
were also a lot of positives that week for me. I came really close to winning.
I hung there right to the end, birdied the 17th hole on Sunday to pull into a
tie. There were good things and there were bad things. It lingered a little
bit. It was embarrassing. That's golf. You put yourself out there in front of
the world stage and sometimes you're going to be embarrassed a little bit. But
now hopefully I can move past it. I've had a couple wins since then, too, but
the British Open was a new chapter for me.
Matt: How are you doing with the balance with
your family? You talked about your kids being 12 and 15 now. I was recently
speaking with Nick Price and his kids are close to your kids’ ages and he wants
to be there for them. How are you balancing the pressures of family life and
Stewart: That’s probably the toughest thing that
we face on Tour is balancing family and work. I really think that the kids
adapt to it better than golfers because kids were born into it and they’ve
known nothing but me traveling and being on the road their whole lives. On the
other hand it’s harder for my wife to deal with me being gone all the time and
her not traveling. It’s something that strains our marriage and we have to work
a little harder than most people to stay on good footings with our marriage.
Nothing like infidelity or anything like that, but it’s just hard. It’s time
away from each other, so we try to keep our focus in the right place and hope
we’ll get through it. We’ve got a lot of good years ahead of us.
Matt: Is your wife working now?
Stewart: She’s not working but she volunteers at
a crisis pregnancy clinic near us, so she’s doing great work. She’s just a
wonderful person. I try to remind her all the time that she’s wonderful but she
doesn’t always believe me. It’s a strain for anybody that’s married to a guy
who travels or a woman who travels for their livelihoods.
Matt: Was it Crosby, Stills and Nash that had the song with
the line that said if you are on the road you must have a code that you can
live by? You speak often about your faith and how that is a centering point of
your life. Has that always been the case?
Stewart: It hasn’t, not until about 2000 did it
became a real focal point for my life. My wife grew up in church and she was
like an educator for me. I really didn’t know anything until that time and
finally made a decision to accept Christ and it really became like a blue print
for me. That’s a good example because you really do have to have a code or blue
print out here or otherwise you’re just going to be dangling like a puppet and
be drawn in all kinds of different directions. I’ve lived my life according to
the principals I believe in and I have a bunch of good friends out here that
keep me accountable. At the end of the day I’m a human being and I can make
mistakes and fall off the wagon. My wife and kids still travel a little bit,
maybe four or five tournaments a year, but not like they used to. I just have
to keep myself in check.
Matt: You talk about your other friends; I assume that
they could be competitors even on the PGA Tour that are helping to keep you in
check. What does that mean and how are you helping keep each other in check?
Stewart: I just know that these guys believe the
same way I do. When I see them it serves as a constant reminder that I have an
alternate purpose out here other than to win tournaments, make money and to be
competitive. It’s also to bring some attention and glory to what I believe in.
So, it’s just a constant reminder to stay accountable to those guys and they
see me the same way I’m sure.
Matt: To paraphrase if I may, this higher
purpose that you’re striving to live up to, has that helped your golf game?
Stewart: It has because it keeps me balanced and it keeps
me grounded. It’s so easy to just get blown off course out here because you’re
getting good breaks and you’re getting bad breaks. It’s real easy to get sour
on the bad breaks, especially when you’re in a stretch that I’ve was in where I
wasn’t getting a lot out of my game. I was playing well but turning a 68 into a
71 and it’s easy to get really sour about that. Having something to fall back
on and stay rooted keeps you from swaying with the breeze. Your golf game can
Matt: You are 35. Where do you see your career
going? You’ve got another 15 years on the regular Tour. Do you see yourself
going to the Champions Tour some day? What other facets of your life do you see
developing? Course design, anything like that?
Stewart: Well, I think that the Champions Tour
is so far off for me that I can’t think about that right now. I think I’m sort
of at halftime in my career. I’ve played and I’ve gained experience. I’ve had
some success, but I think in the second half I will need to follow in the
footsteps of a Kenny Perry or Vijay Singh, where they really turned it on in their
40’s. So, from here on I think that’s the new focus for me. I’ve been a really
solid cut maker and a top 25 performer. I’ve been financially successful on
Tour but I don’t have the number of wins I would hope to have had by now. I
think that’s my focus. To have more of an effort to win instead of being
concerned about being 3rd 4th or 5th. It’s
going to be win or not win.
What’s In Stewart’s Bag
Driver: Nike SQ Sumo˛ Tour Driver
Irons: Pro Combo OS 2-4, Nike CCi Forged
Fairway Woods:Nike SQ 2 (15
Wedges:Victory Red Forged 52°, 54° and 60°
Putter: Nike METHOD Putter
Ball:Nike ONE Tour D
Footwear:Air Tour TW 8.5 Footwear and Nike Air Zoom Elite
Apparel:Nike Golf Tour Collection
Glove: Nike Tour Feel
AxivCore shaft in driver and 3wood, UST Attas shaft in 5wood, True Temper X100
in all irons