2001 US Open - Stewart Cink News Conference Transcript
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?
STEWART CINK: Yeah.
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.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”