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An Interview with: STEWART CINK
KELLY ELBIN: U.S. Ryder Cup Team member, Stewart Cink, joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup. This will be Stewart's fourth appearance in The Ryder Cup representing the United States.
Stewart, welcome back to Valhalla, where you tied for 15th in the 2000 PGA Championship, so you know a little bit about this golf course and about playing in The Ryder Cup. Thoughts on the first day?
STEWART CINK: Well, it's always good to get here and get settled in and get a round under your belt, get with the players and caddies, and everybody jokes around a lot the first day. It's fun to check out the course in a relaxed environment, and steadily the tension increases a little bit as you go on not the tension, but the seriousness of the matter.
Today is fun and it's a good day to observe the golf course, beautiful day, and all around it was a really good one out there.
KELLY ELBIN: Quite a bit to talk about with six rookies on this team. Do you see a role for yourself there as some mentoring? Have you had any of that already, discussing past experiences?
STEWART CINK: These rookies, and I use that term loosely, I don't know how much mentoring they need. Anthony Kim is hard to consider a rookie the way he's played this year. I think he's going to be more like a horse. He's a good player.
These guys have all withstood a lot already to get here. I think being a first time Ryder Cupper in 2008 is maybe quite a bit different than it was in the '80s or the '70s because there are so many big tournaments around the world and it's such a world stage anymore; golf is scrutinized more than ever before, and The Ryder Cup is just another event of which you have to really perform well.
So they are tested. The six guys that are on our team that have never played The Ryder Cup before have a lot of experience in other ways.
Q. Not a new topic, but is there any way to construe the absence of Tiger Woods from the team as an advantage for you guys?
STEWART CINK: It's hard to say. Tiger is a great player. You know, with his knee being out, I just hope that he's able to do the right kind of rehab and get back to where he was again so that he can help us out on future Ryder Cups, because he's going to be here for a pretty long time, is the consensus.
I don't know, we need Tiger Woods to be a big part of this team for a long time, and this year without him playing, it's time for us to step up there and show what all of the rest of us can do in his absence.
Q. Paul was in here earlier talking about the changes he had made with Americans losing, and you just change things, in format and selection. As a player and looking back at your experience, are there things you would hope change this time other than playing better? Is there anything that the players can do differently?
STEWART CINK: It's hard to say, because it's not like everybody has not been there and trying and putting everything they have into it and wanting to win. Everybody's come together during the week and enjoyed themselves and got along great. We hardly have any, you know, personal tension on the team between anybody; in fact, none as far as I can remember, ever. We've done everything we can do except play great.
If there's a way to look back on it and say, yeah, if I can do this to play better, everybody on the team would have done that and I'd be winning every major. There's not a way to just flip a switch and play great. You just have to be patient and let it happen. That's one thing we haven't done, is we've forced it, and this year, let's just let it happen and enjoy the ride while it's here.
Q. At Oakland Hills, there was a lot made about how the Europeans were motivated by that victory early on the first day against Tiger and Phil, and it was kind of like cutting the heart out of the U.S. Team. Well, Sergio has been a very passionate leader for them and he's been a real wall for you guys to try to scale the last few Ryder Cups. If you guys can go out there and get a win over he and a Westwood, or whoever they put him with, could it have the same effect for the American side? Is he that kind of player for them now?
STEWART CINK: Well, he's certainly performed well in The Ryder Cup. I think he was like 4 0 in 2006 in the team play, before I beat him. (Laughing) We had a good match. He played really well that day. I just had a really good day.
Any time you can take what has appeared on paper to be the top two, like obviously it was obvious when Tiger and Phil were together, that was the marquee match up of all time probably in The Ryder Cup, and it didn't go as well as we hoped it would.
But with their team, they don't have necessarily a Tiger Woods who is head and shoulders above the rest of the world of golf, but when you look to the best performers on the team, Sergio is definitely up there. And if you can get a win early against him or his partner, yeah, definitely gives you some confidence, no question.
Q. Following up on your triumph over Sergio last time around, I heard they threatened to lock you out of the team room if you didn't knock him off because nobody wanted him to be 5 0; fair to say?
STEWART CINK: No one had to tell me that.
It was a great match up for me. Not only a great match, but a great match up for me, because I really wanted to be in the role of having to do something to help the team out, and I was the second match off. I don't remember exactly how many points we trailed by, but we needed to have a serious run. The first couple of matches were so important, and for me to be right there against their best performer of the week was something I relished, and to perform well myself and win that match was great, so good for my confidence. I just wish it would have done the team better in the end. Just our hole was too deep.
Q. I have a question about tactics. The Europeans have, I understand, got a drum kit in their locker room. What are the Americans doing to sort of jeeve themselves up? What sort of secret tactics have you got?
STEWART CINK: Banjo. No, I'm just kidding. (Laughter).
As far as I know, we have no musical instruments. We do have karaoke. It's a pretty sad show, but we do have karaoke.
No, I don't think there's been any tactics like that in our room. Our captain, Paul Azinger, he's a foosball I don't know if you would call him a professional, but he's probably somewhere in the Top 50 on the Money List of all time in gambling in foosball. Just to watch him play is inspiration enough right there. It's been pretty cool to watch him play.
Q. On the subject of the six new guys, when Phil was in here earlier, he said not being a part of the last few U.S. teams is not a bad thing. Is it tough this is your fourth, correct?
STEWART CINK: Yep.
Q. Is it tough to not let that scar tissue, if that's the correct way to put it, tough to not feel that this week when this week rolls around again every two years?
STEWART CINK: It's a lot like the rest of the game of golf where you have to put your bogeys and doubles and your missed putts and your shots out of bounds and in the water, you have to put all of that stuff behind you.
Here we are with a fresh team. We've got a fresh captain and we have a fresh course. It would really do us no good to dwell on the past. And although I think Mickelson, what Phil meant when he said that, was that it's not a bad thing to have the memory of losing for these guys that have never played in it. Yeah, to have players that are new that haven't felt the sting of defeat, it's a good thing, but also, you've got to understand how motivated we are by this. We do not like to lose. Not one person on our team enjoys coming up here and just walking around and getting our butts kicked. We do not enjoy it.
That's motivating us every year more and more, too, and it's going to happen eventually, so maybe this will be the year.
Q. This issue of team leadership, is that overstated in a golf competition, a team golf competition? And the other thing I wonder is, is the only way to lead and develop leadership as an individual to win tournaments, or rather, win matches?
STEWART CINK: Well, I don't think being a leader can really affect the way that you play your shots, the way other guys play their shots, but it can affect attitudes. It can affect positive thinking. That in turn can have a long term effect on the way you play over the week.
Everybody on our team to some extent is their own leader. Everybody has got their own strategy to the way they approach the game. Not one person will come in here and say, I think you need to try to do this with your bunker shots, I think that will help. That's not the kind of leadership we have, and their team doesn't have that, either. It's just the confidence, knowing that if there's some doubt, maybe a player that has been there before or a player that has a question about how you do you handle this or that; in the case of giving putts or not giving putts in a certain part of the match. That's where a leader might take the role of saying, "That's good, pick it up," or whether to lay up on a par 5, not the place where a rookie wants to jump in and be too bold about it.
What was the other part of your question, or did I hit it?
KELLY ELBIN: Is there any other means of leading than winning?
STEWART CINK: Winning definitely fosters leadership, and the guys on our team that have played in a lot of these things, we still have guys on our team that won the last one; it's ancient history now. We still have some guys that were on that team.
It's talked about less and less in the team room. My first Ryder Cup, it was talked about an awful lot, the comeback at Brookline. Every year since then it's been talked about less and less, which is okay. We're moving past that now. We have these new events; we don't need to be in the past anymore.
Q. Heard a lot of discussion in the last few weeks about Paul's setup of the golf course and that there were going to be a lot of birdies out there. As I walked all 18 holes with you and the other groups, I don't see as many birdies as everybody was kind of rumoring about. Your sense of the golf course as you played it today?
STEWART CINK: I agree with you. It's not quite as wide open of a course as I thought it was, as far as the fairway width. They have narrowed some of the holes a little bit with the bunkers and there is some rough out there a little bit, but hitting the ball straight is going to be important, but I think the course, the ball is going to go a long way with the way the weather is. Doesn't look like they will get a lot of rain, and it's important to hit the ball straight. The greens are undulating and there's a lot of little terraces and rolls and bumps around the greens. Your distance control is going to be a really important piece in the game of golf in these matches I think.
Q. Do you think they will leave the greens as hard as they were today?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, I don't think there's a choice really unless it rains, because it looks like the greens are new and they have been resurfaced and the grass is just starting to really take on, so the firmness of the greens is coming from the underneath part, it's not coming from the surface. You're still making ballmarks but the ball is not really grabbing onto anything. It's just hitting and toppling forward. I expect it to stay like that the rest of the week.
Q. You mentioned a marquee match up being Tiger and Phil two years ago. A lot of people would agree, particularly Kentucky fans, a marquee matchup would be Kenny and J.B., Paul alluded to the two of them possibly going off Friday morning to set the tone. Your reaction on how that could be one heck of a momentum builder?
STEWART CINK: Well, I really can't say much about that because I don't really I don't have a whole lot to do with the pairings. But I can say that if those guys want to play together, and I believe that is what they want to do, they would like to play together, then I don't see why not put them together.
There's no better setup than two players that definitely want to play better and are vocal about it being paired in a team format. It doesn't always have great results but usually better than not.
Q. Nick was in here, and he talked about the wives having a quiz on the plane and that they had become involved, the Euro wives, and I wondered what kind of a role, certainly your wife was a great ambassador when you played in the World Cup in Barbados, and I'm wondering what kind of a role the wives are playing with this particular group.
STEWART CINK: Well, the wives on our team, they are such a spirited bunch. They enjoy each other so much that it's fun for me to just sit back and watch them go.
As far as a role they are taking, I don't know that they are probably conniving in some way to do some role. They always pull some pranks on us, but I don't know what it's going to be yet. But when they get together, it's like a top and you just let it go and watch it spin. I enjoy seeing my wife like that. She gets really into her element with some of the other gals.
Q. Circling way back around, you mentioned how minus the world No. 1, it's time to maybe have 12 guys stand up and prove they can do this on their own. Did you ever get a sense in teams past that in some ways there were 11 guys looking at one guy waiting for him to become sort of the dominant, alpha male personality and sort of take over the team by dint of his personality and ability and that maybe this time, that in some way could be advantageous? I can think of no way his absence would be an advantage, but maybe in that one narrow psychological way?
STEWART CINK: I guess it's possible. You can look at this any way you want to. There's so many possibilities and outcomes that could happen because of Tiger being here or not. But the bottom line is, you know, I want him to be back and ready for the next Ryder Cup. I don't know what else to say. So much could be said about it that it's almost worth not even going into it.
KELLY ELBIN: Stewart Cink, thanks very much.
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