Wednesday, May 18

A Comfortable Conversation with Stewart Cink (Conclusion)

FOLLOWING IS THE SECOND and concluding part of my recent interview with Stewart Cink. In Part 1, Cink talked about his own “Journey to Comfort,” which is the name of the Dove® Men + Care™ campaign that features him and Davis Love. He also discussed family life and his surprising fan base, including the Twitter explosion that resulted in 1.2 million followers.

Today Stewart talks about the state of his golf game, including his relatively new coach and swing changes, shares his feelings about the Ryder Cup, and weighs in on the current and future prospects for tour golf.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You were talking earlier about numbers and statistics and results, and how they don’t really tell the whole story. I was wondering about the state of your game. I know you’re probably disappointed about another missed cut at the Masters. It looked like you played some good golf at Heritage. Where are things going for you right now?

STEWART CINK: The state of my game is sort of changing right now. I changed coaches at the end of last year. I worked with Butch Harmon for eight years. I’ve moved on to a new coach, Pat O’Brien. Both coaches have been great. Butch was excellent. We’re still good friends, but we just parted ways because we kind of reached a little bit of a plateau. Working with Pat O’Brien has been good, though, making a couple of little changes. So at times, very much like our very famous golfer Tiger Woods who’s making a lot of changes right now. It’s not easy to implement changes competitively when you’re on the golf course. I’m caught in between at times.

Currently, the state of my game is that I’m doing everything pretty well. I’m just not getting the ball up and down enough. That’s pretty evident in my statistics. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to stats, but I do know that if you’re outside about the top 150 in any statistical category, you’ve got a problem. There’s not always a clear definition between 100 and 30th, but way down the list there’s an issue there. So that’s where I’m working. And a missed cut at the Masters certainly hurts this year. It’s one of the most disappointing parts of my career, to be honest with you, is my performance at the Masters. I live in Georgia, I’ve wanted to be competitive there, and I’ve wanted to stroll up the 18th fairway looking at the Green Jacket, and I just haven’t been there. It just really works on me because the golf course ought to be one that really suits me, and I haven’t performed very well. Maybe just putting too much pressure on myself every year thinking about it. Every missed cut you think about it more, so you kind of just snowball.

I don’t really organize my career in a goal-setting way. I think that’s more in the results. Rewards and goals are sometimes easily confused. For me, I just try to be ready for every shot, get to the best state of my game with preparation and practice and doing the things that I believe are sound. I believe that that will end up with rewards in the form of better scores and better finishes. So I don’t really look at goals. But I know one thing, that I’m working really hard, I’m trying to get better, and stay competitive and get back to where I was when I was winning the British Open in 2009. But it’s a tough journey sometimes when you make that coaching change and you start changing things in your swing. It’s always a journey back to being comfortable in the heat of battle.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’ve been on five straight Ryder Cup teams. I figured it would mean a lot to play on another team, especially with your friend Davis as captain. Can you talk about that?

STEWART CINK: Yeah, it really would. I’ve been picked for three teams, and that means a lot to me. Being picked is almost the most satisfying way to join a team because the captain has a lot of guys to look at and picks you. I got picked by Hal Sutton. I got picked by Tom Lehman. And I got picked by Corey Pavin. Talk about a reinforcement of your self beliefs. Most media members who have asked me questions about being picked for the Ryder Cup have asked me if it feels like there’s more pressure. I promise you that the guy that qualifies 10th has a lot more pressure on him than the guy that gets picked. I’ve been there in both cases. But yeah, it would mean so much to me to be able to represent the United States again in the Ryder Cup, especially in the United States. In Louisville, winning on that team in 2008, was one of the very few top highlights of my career. Even though I didn’t have my best matches there—I did win a match and lost two—but that experience, being a part of a winning Ryder Cup team, was something I’ll never ever forget. It was awesome.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: We’ve seen a lot going on with the economy, a lot of change in golf. It’s been down. Now it’s coming back. We see changes at the top with the world rankings. From the Stewart Cink perspective, what’s the state of tour golf these days?

STEWART CINK: First of all, I think the tour lags behind the rest of the economy by a period of time that’s somewhere between 10 and 20 months. We’re in the same period that this dip in the economy was in about a year and a half ago. That’s because of contractual structures where companies are involved with a long-term deal that might not expire down the road for several years. When that time comes, they say the economy has hurt us. That’s when you see tournaments start struggling for sponsorships. The state of the game is good. It’s just difficult times right now because the FedEx Cup is really awesome, but it’s also caused prices to go up. Sponsorship prices are higher. The product is better, but it costs more. There are fewer companies out there that can pay, especially in the belt-tightening environment we’re in right now.

I think the tour is a little bit more of a streamlined organization than it was. We’re ready. We’re fighting hard. But it’s a tough fight. I don’t think they’re going to be able to escape losing a tournament or two over the next couple of years. I think the tour is going to come through it all right, but there will be scars. The game of golf is not going to change radically, but there have been some changes already that the players have noticed, and the fans probably won’t notice because it won’t impact golf on television or in person. We have to provide more value. The players have to interact more with the sponsors than ever before, which should have been happening forever anyway. Some of these younger players are realizing maybe I wasn’t born onto the planet with the right to play golf for $6 million a week. Maybe I have to go out and actually earn that. It’s probably a good thing for the health of the tour in the long-term sense.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Thanks, Stewart. I appreciate the chance to talk with you. I wish you all the best with your swing changes and everything else.

STEWART CINK: OK, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

−The Armchair Golfer

A Comfortable Conversation with Stewart Cink (Part 1)
A Comfortable Conversation with Davis Love III

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