Stewart Cink sat down with Alan Shipnuck at the Northern Trust last week. At 45 years old, he’s chasing down whatever he can with the time left in his PGA Tour career, and at the PGA Championship earlier this month, he was shockingly in contention.
Cink finished tied for fourth, a great performance by anyone. The most shocking part may have been that it was his first top 10 in a major since 2009 when he won the British Open at Turnberry over Tom Watson.
Everyone knows the story well. Watson, 59 years old at the time, was improbably in position to win his sixth British Open. Cink probably knows it better than anyone.
“To talk about when I first thought about Tom Watson at the British Open, you have to go back to April of that year,” Cink said. “Tuesday of Augusta, 2009. It’s raining. It’s cold and miserable. There’s not that many people there. Even the patrons didn’t want to show up that day. But I’m going out to play a few holes. I go to the first tee, and there’s Tom Watson. ‘Hey, you wanna join up?’ ‘Sure.’ … We go out on the golf course. It’s cold, wet, windy, and Augusta as you know is pretty long.
“It’s a demanding course and Tom is not the longest hitter anymore. But he’s hitting these drives that are like low bullets. In the cross winds, they are just straight. Every shot is out of the center of the club face. He’s flagging iron shots and hybrids. He’s hitting these beautiful chips around the greens. After nine holes — actually after about four holes — my thought was, ‘This guy could really do something at the British Open.’
He certainly did. Cink held off Watson for his first career major, and remembers the event like it was yesterday. He discusses that crazy tournament, his mental game battles, the 2001 U.S. Open and more in the podcast below. Subscribe here!