2001 US Open - Stewart Cink News Conference Transcript

By Golf Channel NewsroomJune 17, 2001, 4:00 pm
Q. Mark Brooks said there must be a ghost hanging around that 18th hole in major championships here. Whoever wins doesn't even usually break par on that hole. What was going through your head on that one?
STEWART CINK: Well, when you come to the last hole of a tournament, whether it's the U.S. Open or whatever, it's -- a lot of times it turns into match play. And you can say you're playing against the course all you want to, but it turns into match play on the last hole. It was like a sudden death playoff. So I was playing not only against the hole, but I was also playing against the situation that I needed to at least tie Retief on the hole or beat him to win. And so after I missed the green left and then chipped on and I was looking at about a 12-footer there, I thought that was a pretty crucial putt, because the situation dictated to me that I needed to make that, because Retief had a gimmie 2-putt. So after I hit my first putt and thought I made it or I thought it was going in and it just missed the edge, then it was really hard to concentrate on the next one, because I really didn't think it meant that much. And I pretty much put all the emotional energy I had into the first one. And so concentrating was very difficult. It was quite a bit different from the same putt I had on 17, which was the exact same putt, straight uphill, three feet. And it's a funny thing, but I think if I had made that second one, I really do have a feeling that Retief wouldn't have had trouble getting down in two to win. I'm not hanging my head at all. I hung in there probably better than a lot of people thought I would. And maybe even better than I thought I would. And I gave myself really a darn good chance at the end. So I'm not hanging my head one bit. I'm not going to look back and say I missed a two-footer to get myself into the playoff in the U.S. Open. I'm going to look back and say I made a great effort from 12 feet to tie.
Q. Stewart, you said you approached that second putt sort of as if it didn't really mean that much, you took it for granted that Retief was going to make his. If that scenario presented itself again, I think you'd think back and say --
STEWART CINK: Well, that scenario is never going to present itself again, I have a feeling. I know what you mean, and I've played enough golf to know that that's the case. It's not like I wasn't trying to make that one. I just didn't feel like it was a crucial one, and so it was very tough for me. I don't know, I can't really explain it. I felt a little bit shaky on it -- it's tough to explain. And in the situation again maybe I'll take a little more time. It's not like I hurried it. I marked it and everything. Just a strange thing. But I'm looking back at this tournament on a lot more good stuff than I saw bad stuff out of me. I proved a lot to myself.
Q. What went through you when he missed his?
STEWART CINK: It took me a little while to realize that I had lost the chance to be in a playoff, too. I was feeling pretty bad for him right there, because not only is that something that can really wreck your confidence, but it's also fairly embarrassing. It's a major championship. And it really didn't dawn on me until after he had putted out and made the next one that that meant I was one shot back of the final playoff score. But like I said, I have very strong faith that he would have found a way to get it down in two if I had made a little one.
Q. How stunned were you that he did 3-putt?
STEWART CINK: I'm stunned beyond words. I just -- he was so solid on the greens all week, and I've played with him many times, and he's been incredibly solid on the greens. I have no explanation at all for it.
Q. Is that the strangest finish you've ever seen?
STEWART CINK: I think it might be. I only saw us two play it. I didn't see what happened in the earlier groups, but it was strange. And I think -- I'm not the only one in the group that would like to have it over.
Q. Just a full rerun?
Q. Had you missed anything like that all week?
STEWART CINK: No, I hadn't. And that's why it's kind of difficult to explain. I'd been really solid on the greens, and I hadn't even been touching the sides of them, I'd been just putting them in the middle. I had a tough time really concentrating and focusing on that one.
Q. Can he come back from that tomorrow?
STEWART CINK: He'll come back from it. He's got a lot of game and he hits the ball pretty straight. He hits a lot of fairways. So I think it's going to be very entertaining tomorrow.
Q. You said that you learned a lot about yourself. What is it you learned about yourself?
STEWART CINK: Well, I learned that with a major championship on the line, going into the last round tied for the lead that I can hang right in there. And it's the first time for me, being that close, and so I'll take a lot out of that and know that next time in that same situation that there's no reason not to have 110 percent faith in my abilities.
Q. You were worried about his confidence from here on in, never yours?
STEWART CINK: No, I'm not worried about mine. Like I said, the putt that I wanted to make really bad was the first one, and I really made a good try there and thought I made the putt. And then the next one, it kind of happened so quickly that it's almost hard to recall what was going on there.
Q. What was it like, just straight in?
STEWART CINK: Straight in pretty much. The hole is cut on a mound, and so I guess if you miss it right or left it's going to break that direction. I guess I just kind of pushed it and, I don't know --
Q. Why do you think he'd have knocked it in?
STEWART CINK: I just have a really strong belief that some things are meant to happen and some things are not meant to happen. And I just have a feeling that he would have found a way to do it there.
Q. What words describe what your stomach feels like right now?
STEWART CINK: You know, I feel good right now. I don't feel down. You would think I'd feel pretty bad about what just happened. And I don't. I don't feel bad at all.
Q. Do you think that tomorrow you'll just beat the hell out of a lamp or something?
STEWART CINK: No, I don't. I can handle this. This is golf. We're talking about a game, here. I can handle it.
Q. What did you say to Retief after the round?
STEWART CINK: I told him I enjoyed playing with him, I thought he played well and I wished him the best of luck for tomorrow. We didn't talk much about what happened on that green.
Q. Do you think that Mark will have an edge tomorrow, given the fact that he's won a major before?
STEWART CINK: No, I don't think that gives him an edge at all, because -- well, I think he made a 5 on the last hole, too, gave us a chance, kind of, there. So, no, I don't believe he's got an edge because of that win, it's been a few years. And it's just going to be very interesting tomorrow.
Q. It's possibly a mental edge, though, considering how close Retief was to winning the golf tournament, two feet away?
STEWART CINK: I think if anything he might feel like he's got nine lives like a cat. He's got a chance -- he was probably packing his stuff when he saw Retief hitting it ten feet, and that it wasn't a downhill putt, he had an uphill 10-footer. I thought Mark Brooks probably thought he was second place or third place, because I was at 5-under, too. So Mark is thinking right now probably that he's been given a gift and he's got a chance to take advantage of that. But just because he's feeling that way doesn't make this course any easier and the pressure of a playoff in a major championship any easier. It's going to be hard to handle.
Q. Some others described this as an opportunity lost, do you feel that way?
STEWART CINK: I don't really feel -- I feel like I had a good chance at making a par on the last hole from where I was, obviously in the fairway, and then missing the green, there, I still thought I had a good chance shot at getting up-and-down. And I misread the lie there a little bit. So really, if I had to go back and start over at some point, I'd probably go back to the chip, because I didn't really get the results I wanted to out of the chip. So I had an opportunity to get up-and-down and make a par there for a chance to go on and play more. I missed that opportunity. So that's where I feel like if there's any opportunity that I lost --
Q. You don't look at it as a big picture opportunity lost, you try to focus down on --
STEWART CINK: No, I'm not looking at it like that. Big picture is I feel pretty comfortable coming down the stretch. I felt more comfortable on the back 9 today than on the front 9 on Thursday. I felt really at ease and calm, and I felt confident in all my strokes and shots in the fairways and off the tees and everything. I felt better coming into the last few holes than I did going off the first few Thursday. And that's something I'll draw off of for a long time.
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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.