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Stewart Cink loves Carnoustie and the challenges of links golf. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Stewart Cink loves Carnoustie and the challenges of links golf. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Eight years make big difference for Cink at Carnoustie

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Stewart Cink didn't break 80 in either of his two rounds at the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. He was eager to return this week, though, and enjoyed the course and the creativity required in an opening 69 that his him in contention.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.com Chief of Correspondents

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The last time Stewart Cink played Carnoustie, he didn't break 80. Not on Thursday, or Friday, that brazen and brutal week in July of 1999.

The American fared considerably better during Thursday's first round of the 136th Open Championship as he shot a 2-under 69 that included five birdies. The round left Cink two strokes off the clubhouse lead held by Ireland's Paul McGinley.

"The golf course is playing about as easy as it's going to play," Cink reported. "It's cold and there is some breeze out there, so it is playing very long, but there is not that much wind out there and it's just a good test.

"Carnoustie is such a fun place to play. If you can get a few putts in and get some confidence, it is a lot of fun."

That wasn't the case when Paul Lawrie won the Open here in 1999. "Carnasty" humbled the game's greatest players, and Cink was among those leaving early, tail tucked between the legs, after shooting 82 and 80.

The 34-year-old Cink had no qualms about coming back to this tiny enclave on the east coast of Scotland, though.

"I don't think it was Carnoustie that produced those kind of scores," he said. "That was a set-up issue and everyone agrees with that. This course, the way it is set up now, you can play golf all the way through.

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"You don't want to be in the bunkers, but if you miss it in the rough, you are faced with a creative golfer's chance. I just think it is fantastic and it just brings all aspects of your game into play. For that reason, I think everyone in the field has a chance to win this thing."

Cink is in the throes of another solid season with four top-10s and more than $1.5 million in the bank. He's 24th on the PGA TOUR money list and 31st in the FedExCup. He hasn't won since 2004, though, and Cink is still looking for his first major championship.

He'd love to break through at the Open Championship, but Cink's record on this side of the pond leaves something to be desired. He's missed the cut in his last two Opens, and Cink has never finished higher than 14th but that doesn't dim his enthusiasm.

"I love playing in the oldest championship in golf," Cink said. "The links. It's unusual and it's a change of pace. I love everything about it apart from my record. I would like to improve (that) a little, but I have a good time.

"It's always fun and I always hate to leave."

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