The Unassuming Champion Returns

By Rex HoggardJuly 14, 2010, 8:30 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Stewart Cink, the man who pulled professional golf into the Twitter age 140 characters at a time, was asked consecutive questions about Tom Watson to open his press conference on Wednesday and suddenly it seemed perfectly apropos to sum up the affable family man’s reign as Open champion in Tweet form: “The man who won Tom Watson’s Open. LOL.”

Twelve months removed from his historic, and in some circles on this side of the pond heartbreaking, victory at Turnberry Cink is still pelted with questions about Watson’s loss, more so than his gutsy victory.

Not that it matters to Cink.

Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink poses with the claret jug and fellow Open champions. (Getty Images)
“Do I feel sorry for (Watson)? No,” Cink said. “He has five claret jugs, I have one.”

It wasn’t a slight or snap, just the clarity of thought that Cink has acquired over the last 12 months. Or is it 37 years?

At Watson’s request, the two played a practice round on Tuesday and it’s worth mentioning that the subject of Turnberry never came up. If the golf world still views Cink as something of a spoiler it’s a testament to Watson that he considers his Turnberry overtime partner as simply a worthy champion.

“He’s thinking the right way from a strategy standpoint and he may be flying in under the radar,” Watson said.

“Under the radar” seems to sum up Cink’s claret jug year perfectly.

In fact, Cink arrives at St. Andrews in a remarkably similar spot to when he arrived at Turnberry, at least competitively. He’s fresh from ties for 22nd at Colonial and eighth at the Memorial, just like in ’09, with a warming putter and building confidence and, despite his status as the newest member of the Open champions’ club, something of an afterthought.

“It’s very similar to last year when boom, Turnberry,” Cink said. “This year I’d like to say boom, St. Andrews.”

Cink married young, had his first child when most of his team mates at Georgia Tech had more interest in frat parties than midnight feedings and inched his way to Open champion slowly but honestly.

Even now, major title firmly etched next to his name, Cink is something of a supporting actor in the theater that is marquee names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. If life was a Hollywood script, Cink would be golfer No. 6, and he couldn’t care less.

“I’m not going to be Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods. Those guys are the best ever that have played,” Cink said. “But am I worthy to be on the claret jug? Yes, because I played as well as I played for 72 holes last year.”

On a tee sheet filled with “me first” athletes, Cink is the exception – humble and unassuming with a sneaky quiet confidence.

And on one windswept afternoon on the west coast of Scotland he was better than all of them, even the fairytale that was Tom Watson last year.

What’s often lost in the tumultuous Turnberry finish was Cink’s Tiger-esque finish. Fifteen feet, downhill, left to right, and the putt that would ultimately force a playoff with Watson never left the line. At the time the gallery didn’t fully grasp the significance of the putt, but Cink did.

“Every time I’ve had a 15-foot putt I’ve revisited that, whether it’s been for eagle or bogey,” Cink said of his birdie at the 72nd hole last year. “I haven’t had a chance to use it yet coming down the stretch, but hopefully I’m getting closer.”

Thursday will be July 15 at St. Andrews for Cink, not the 150th year of the Open Championship and the beginning of a title defense few outside Duluth, Ga., give him much chance of pulling off.

The simple psychological tenet removes the expectations of now and the pressures that come when a lifetime of effort manifest itself in a single 15-footer. It is, in large part, what delivered the multi-use claret jug last year, and will likely decide whether Cink will be able to contend at St. Andrews.

“Last year it was holes five, six, 17 and 18 at Turnberry, not a playoff to win his first major or beat Tom Watson,” said Dr. Morris Pickens, Cink’s sports psychologist. “It will be interesting if he can come out and play St. Andrews instead of playing as the defending champion.”

That shouldn’t be a problem, at least not for the cellophane man of major championships. Outside of Tuesday’s champions’ dinner – where he returned the claret jug which served as a dispenser of his beloved Guiness, Coke, wine and even BBQ sauce during his reign – Cink has largely been the invisible defending champion. It has been rare anonymity for a player who is much more at ease on a Georgia lake than he is in the spotlight.

But it’s not as though he has been a complete afterthought.

During his now-traditional Open Championship tune-up in Ireland, Cink and his family spent a few days in Dublin. One afternoon the reluctant overseas driver made what he thought was a traffic gaffe pulling out of his hotel.

“A taxi (driver) laid on the horn, and I just knew I had done something wrong and I immediately got embarrassed,” Cink laughed. “I looked at the driver and he was pointing at me, ‘Good luck, good luck,’ he was yelling. I went from being embarrassed to being honored.”

And in four days he could go from being something of an afterthought to an unquestionably dominant player who no longer has to answer Tom Watson questions.
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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with an two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Rory McIlroy left his victory charge too late at Wentworth as Francesco Molinari delivered a clinic in front-running to win the BMW PGA Championship by two shots with a 4-under 68 on Sunday.

McIlroy, who led by three strokes at halfway, entered the final round tied for the lead with Molinari on 13 under par but a Sunday shootout at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

Instead, as McIlroy toiled to a 70 that was propped up by birdies on the par fives at Nos. 17 and 18, Molinari went bogey-free for a second straight day to claim the fifth victory of his career and the biggest since a World Golf Championship in Shanghai in 2010.

The Italian only dropped two shots all week and finished on 17-under 271, with McIlroy alone in second place. Alex Noren (67) and Lucas Bjerregaard (65) were tied for third place a stroke further back.

Molinari moved into the automatic qualifying places for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

He'd previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 - one of the best rounds ever on the European Tour - and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

Molinari played safe and error-free golf, establishing a three-shot lead by the turn with birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8, and there were no dramas on the back nine - until the final hole, which he played holding a three-stroke cushion over McIlroy.

With McIlroy on the green in two and facing a 20-foot putt for eagle, Molinari sent in his third shot that span back toward the water protecting the green, only for the ball to rest in the fringe.

McIlroy left his putt inches short and Molinari two-putted for par.

McIlroy, the four-time major winner and former No. 1, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him as an overwhelming favorite to follow up his victory here in 2014.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par fives coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”