Did Cink win, or did the ageless Tom Watson punt his sixth Open title in spite of the collective wishes of an entire nation? Is Cinks Open legacy destined to suffer the same fate as Paul Lawries? For those unfamiliar with that name Lawrie's the answer to the trivia question: Which Scot pinched the Claret Jug when Jean Van de Velde vomited his way down Carnousties 18th hole in 1999.
It was two months to the day that Cink began his transformation from ATM ' Tour talk for a decent player whose ultimate accomplish seemed to be top-20 in career earnings and a lifetime exemption in the Skins Game ' to major champion.
Cink, you see, was a ballstriker with a blind spot. Some said he lacked a killers heart, turns out the only thing he was missing was a routine.
He came to me just after (The Players), said Dr. Morris Pickens, the Sea Island (Ga.) Resort sports psychologist who is a PGA title away from a career Grand Slam following victories by Zach Johnson (2007 Masters), Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open) and now Cink (British Open).
His routine was terrible, but I knew he could be a great putter. He led the Tour in putting in 04.
Cink ditched his long putter for a conventional-length model, but it wasnt easy. During a conversation at the Memorial he conceded the old crutch was still in his trunk.
I just wanted to totally shock the system so I would have no choice but to go the new rout, Cink said at Muirfield Village. I had a funeral basically for the old guy. Its too easy if you dont change if you fall back into the old habits. Ive totally changed my outlook on my whole game, especially on the greens.
A headline in a Scottish newspaper pulled no punches and offered what we imagine is a from-the-hip consensus statement about an Open that was a 10-foot par putt away from immortality. Stew Stinks the headline read ' and thats a shame.
A Watson victory on Sunday at Turnberry would have been an out-of-body experience, bigger in size and scope than Jack Nicklaus magical run in 1986 at Augusta National and Ben Hogans medical miracle at the 1950 U.S. Open. Too big to write, as they say in fourth estate circles.
Lost amid all that hyperbole, however, is a gutty finish and textbook execution by a player who, just eight weeks earlier, was as adrift as one of Watsons tee shots in the playoff.
When Cink rolled in his 15 footer for birdie on the 18th hole Sunday, nearly an hour ahead of Watson and the other leaders, 2 under was the score to beat. But thats not why he celebrated with such zeal.
He was so excited about that shot at (No.) 18, not because it would get him in a playoff, but because he faced the challenge of an important putt and controlled his emotions and his energy, Pickens said.
For four days Pickens texted Cink the same message: It was like Ground Hog day, Pickens laughed. Invite the challenge of the shot, the text essential read. And the message got through.
Even in the playoff, with the whole of Aryshire routing against him, Cink, as much a golf historian as any on Tour, executed his game plan, regardless of historical underpinnings or sentimentality.
It all sounds a tad cold blooded, but the hard truth is Tiger Woods is not closing on Nicklaus major record reluctantly or with any consideration for those he walks over.
He was playing Turnberry last week, not the 138th Open Championship, said Pickens, reiterating the same theme he drilled into Glover at Bethpage. He wasnt playing Tom Watson in the playoff, either. He was playing the fifth hole at Turnberry.
Cink ultimately decided to post a simple picture of himself kissing the Claret Jug on his increasingly popular Twitter page late Sunday. The rest of us gathered to record history did not have the same luxury.
Instead, 140 characters seemed about right: Stewart Cink ends Tom Watsons historic bid at Open Championship with historic execution.