Posing with a galaxy of past champions and Open officials on Tuesday was one of Stewart Cink's last official duties with the beloved Claret Jug. (Getty Images)
Cink savors role as Open champion, hopes he's not a one-hit wonder
Stewart Cink might not have gotten all the credit he deserves for winning last year, but he's enjoyed his year with the Claret Jug. And the recent realization that the jug isn't his to keep anymore has got him seriously focusing on the future.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Stewart Cink had always considered himself an underachiever. Even long after winning his first major championship, he admits that it was Tom Watson’s Open.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Cink says. “It should be. He was the biggest story of the week.”
Actually, Cink was. He’s the guy who won. As much as everyone might remember Watson for what he almost did, it’s what Cink did do that still resonates in every sip drunk from the Claret Jug. Beer, booze, wine, coffee, you name it -- it’s all flowed from golf’s oldest trophy over the past year.
Cink doesn’t taste one ounce of remorse, either. “Not for a second,” he says. He does, however, feel different. There are more media responsibilities. He now gets recognized a little more often. Even his perception of himself is different.
“I didn't really put any thought into whether I was going to be a major championship winner or not in my career,” he says. “Was it a load off? No, because I didn't feel like there was a load on me.
“It's definitely changed the way I feel about the way I've come to terms in my attitude towards tournaments. I feel like if I can get myself in position -- I just want to get a chance to get back there again so I can exercise what I learned at Turnberry, that I can do it.”
Cink hasn’t won since that July day along the coast of the outer Firth of Clyde in southwest Scotland, though, and that’s been frustrating for the defending champion, who enters this year’s Open Championship at St. Andrews with just one top-10 in his last eight starts and only three all year.
Still, Cink has savored his role as champion golfer of the year. Just about everywhere he goes, the Claret Jug does, too. People want to touch it. They want their pictures with it (and with Cink, too). It’s been used in commercials -- that’s the real Jug Cink is pouring coffee from in one particular ad -- and has been on display at all of Cink’s clubs; East Lake, Berkeley Hills and the River Club in Atlanta.
“They've given me a lot,” Cink says. “And I really haven't given them a whole lot, except for a couple of appearances, and whatever they think the value of a PGA TOUR player hanging around and playing a lot is.
“I felt like all of that was responsible in a way for my preparation, getting ready for the British Open and that win. The members have afforded me a chance to play there and practice at those places. I just think it's the right thing to do.”
It’s been so many places, in fact, that one early morning before an appearance Cink didn’t know where it was. He checked the usual place in his house where he keeps it and it wasn’t there. As Cink searched frantically for it, one room after another turned up nothing. Eventually he found it down in the basement. It turned out his son Connor and some friends were having a little fun with it the night before.
Great, you win the tournament and the trophy is the one who's the celebrity. Cink still has share of moments, though.
“People are definitely respectful of the fact that I won and played well,” Cink says. “I've had tons of well-wishers and a lot of really awesome comments from people about Watson and just a lot of funny statements that people have made to me, joking around about how I whooped up on Watson and all that.”
Now of course is the question of whether Cink can do it again, or if he’ll be a sort of proverbial one-hit wonder and go back to being the underachiever he’s always considered himself.
A lot of guys win a major championship and are never heard from again (see Campbell, Michael). For Cink, it was starting to look like he may belong to another category: guys who had the talent to win a major championship but never did.
Phil Mickelson was once the latter, until he won the 2004 Masters. Since then, Mickelson has won three more majors.
“As soon as you start trying to avoid that, then it's in your head and you're probably not going to avoid that,” Cink says of never hoisting a major championship trophy again. “The Claret Jug is something that you get for a year and it's temporary. It actually motivates me seeing it at home and knowing that it's not going to be there forever.
“If I never do win another tournament, will I be satisfied with what I've done? I would like to win a lot more, and I feel like I definitely have the potential to win a lot more tournaments or majors or both.”