Cink sinks history, and for that he deserves our sympathy

If it’s possible to feel sorry for a guy who just won his first major tournament, I feel sorry for Stewart Cink. Because 10 years from now, maybe 10 days from now, nobody outside Atlanta will recall the 2009 British Open as Cink’s breakthrough. It will forever be the one Old Tom Watson almost won.

And that’s a shame. Facing the onrushing tide of history, what was Cink to do? Jump out of the way and grant the watching world its fervent wish? On ABC, Paul Azinger said afterward: “This would have been the greatest feat in the history of sports,” and a listener’s first thought wasn’t, as is always the case when confronted with such absolutes, to yell, “Heck no!” but “Well … maybe.”

But Stewart Cink didn’t pull a Tonya Harding and club Watson with a mashie. Cink simply played winning golf when Watson’s body remembered that, 46 days hence, it’ll turn 60. Watson missed an eight-foot putt on the 72nd hole and Van de Velded the playoff, and the Georgia Tech man was a six-shot winner over those four holes. And the watching world turned away saddened by what it had witnessed.

Watson’s first words in the press tent: “Would’ve been a hell of a moment, wouldn’t it?”

Yes, it would’ve been a Great Story, and I’ve been around long enough to know what happens when we writers are denied our Great Stories. I remember Rick Reilly, then of Sports Illustrated, ripping the unassuming Scott Simpson for having the gall to win the 1987 U.S. Open over an immortal named Watson who, 22 years ago, was even then in comeback mode. Reilly called Simpson “a square in a groove” and then got really nasty:

“Now Simpson is a decent enough player. But on the thrill scale he ranks just behind Edwin Meese and slightly ahead of a tuna sandwich. Though he had no right to, Simpson ruined Watson’s longed-for coming-home soiree, partly because of an ungodly run of putting and partly because of one ungodly piece of luck.”

And who was sitting there in Scotland on Sunday, serving as ESPN’s “essayist”? The same Rick Reilly. Good luck with this week’s “essay,” Mr. Cink. Perhaps you’ll get upgraded to a BLT.

But the Tech man isn’t without allies. He has 590,000 followers on Twitter — he’s @stewartcink — which is 590,000 more than Watson enjoys. (”I don’t twit or tweet,” Watson told reporters this week.) And maybe his Jacket background helped Cink steel himself for the playoff against the people’s choice. As we know, the Institute is an underdog, at least numerically, in its own state.

Will Stewart Cink be given his due for winning the British Open?

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It’s a tough place to be, one man (plus assorted Tech fans and Twitterers) against the tide of history, but the pride of Sugarloaf did himself proud. He played steadily, was exultant but not excessive in victory and was duly deferential afterward. As he told ABC: ““I have such an admiration for Tom … I was a little reluctant to be pitted against him.” But then this: “I’m elated I won.”

Let’s hope Cink won’t have cause to regret the circumstances of his Open championship. Golf fans tend to love everybody — except J.C. Snead; never understood that — so there shouldn’t be a problem there. Golf scribes, however, are a tougher lot.

Surely more than a few had this one written — “Aging golfer wins one for the ages,” yada yada — and the only thing we writers hate more than a dull winner is rewriting. That sound you heard yesterday from across the pond? The “thwack” of a hundred correspondents hitting the “delete” key in ticked-off tandem.

New headline: “Cink wins, hearts sink.” Not his fault, though. Just the rub of the green.

70 comments Add your comment

Dear Bark Madley

July 19th, 2009
6:29 pm

Sorry you had to delete your canned article about Watson winning the Open. Probably would have been plagiarized anyway. How long did it take you to write this junk? 5 minutes? Way to go stud. Dont play down Cink’s win. He deserved it. And if it ruined your day, good! You deserve it.

Billy

July 19th, 2009
6:40 pm

Jeez… People like DBM make me sad to be a Tech fan. Dude, regardless of what you think, Mark Bradley isn’t a Dawg fan. I’ve followed the guy for 20 years. He’s never seemed anything other than evenhanded. I actually got the feeling that he actually feels sorry for Cink because he won’t get his due.

Stewart Cink » Prime News Network

July 19th, 2009
6:41 pm

[...] It goes back eight years when … No regrets for Cink after spoiling fairytale Reuters Cink sinks history, and for that he deserves our sympathy Atlanta Journal Constitution Cink’s climb to the top Yahoo! Sports Bloomberg – [...]

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2009
6:43 pm

Thanks, Billy. You’ve been placed on retainer as my defense counsel.

jhcpeterson

July 19th, 2009
6:46 pm

methinks the comments above were written after they got hit in the head with a golf club? that was a wonderful, strategic show of golf..worth every penny i didn’t have to spend..what a game!

Steve

July 19th, 2009
6:47 pm

Stewart Sink is a piece of garbage. Met him at a party next to my bosses house after the golf tourney at Sugarloaf and he was a complete jerk. One of my good friends was in his wedding and he still blew me off when I tried to talk to him. What a total piece of Sh**.

2HLLWGA

July 19th, 2009
6:47 pm

Very happy for Cink – makes Tech fans happy and proud. I hope ESPN doesn’t do to Cink what they did to Simpson. Interesting bit of history – Looks like history does repeat itself (for Watson).

Rabun Dawg

July 19th, 2009
6:52 pm

Congrats to Stewart! Yea, being older than Watson, I, like many my age were pulling for Tom as he may never have that chance again.However, Cink appears to be one of the really good guys out there, and we should all be proud of him, especially since he attended GT and lives in the area. Hey, what was he supposed to do, roll over and play to sentiment? Seems to me he was the better player this day and deserved the win!

B.More Accurate

July 19th, 2009
6:52 pm

It’s not just “The Institute.” It’s “The Insect Institute!”

twoiron

July 19th, 2009
6:54 pm

Mark, did you ever meet J C Snead? The most rudest and arrogant human I have ever met. And I have been around him at least 10 times.

misterwax

July 19th, 2009
6:54 pm

well, these comments run the gamut…so let’s just say Go Jackets, BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!

Didn't know

July 19th, 2009
7:02 pm

Didn’t know Cink was a jacket but I have never cared for him. Always comes off as cocky to me. No surprise to now find out he is a jacket. The only reason he is a champ is that Watson choked…should have never had the opportunity. He was standing on the 18th fairway with a one shot lead. Put it in the middle of the green, two putt and win!

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2009
7:03 pm

I remember standing with the late Tom McCollister, my esteemed AJC colleague, at a golf tournament, and I asked him: “Is there anyone golf crowds don’t like?” And he said: “J.C. Snead — nobody likes J.C. Snead.”

And I’d heard he was arrogant. But I’ve met a few golfers who seemed very popular that I would have considered arrogant. (Then again, they probably thought I was arrogant. And they’d have been right.)

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 19th, 2009
7:07 pm

Just heard the “Trade School” tickle pile was such a “suck-cess” that the bonfire had to be cancelled becuase the particpants book matches got wet.

A proud Dawg says, “Way to go Cink.”

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

July 19th, 2009
7:07 pm

Good post Rabun Dawg….BUT…I still wish Tom had made that put on 18 to win….don’t you..??

mike lump

July 19th, 2009
7:09 pm

Yes, Cink ruined one of the greatest stories in sport history but on the bright side at least the rest of the world hates Tech now too.

Dawggone-it

July 19th, 2009
7:14 pm

Paul Azinger said it best. “This win would not have changed Tom Watson’s life but it will change Stewart Cink’s.” Congratulations even if he is a “dirt dauber.”

BugKiller

July 19th, 2009
7:25 pm

Let’s give Cink three rounds of the only cheer he deserves: the Bronx variety.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

YOU SUCK!!!

Old Snarky

July 19th, 2009
7:53 pm

Get over it people. Mr Cink is a Gentleman and a Scholar. He has a great family and he deserves this win.. I was really happy for him. Tom Watson is ok too BUT this was Stewarts day so let him and his family enjoy the spoils. THEY deserve it.

Billy

July 19th, 2009
7:58 pm

Nice to see the dawg fans come out to try to make light of Cink’s win. Lot’s of class there. At least 90% of the dawg posters…

Billy

July 19th, 2009
7:59 pm

oops. just so the “academic-minded” fans don’t jump all over me… I meant “Lots”, not “lot’s”…

Shane

July 19th, 2009
8:07 pm

Leave to a tech guy to ruin the party.

Chris

July 19th, 2009
8:09 pm

Don’t you just know the guys at ABC were spewing when Tiger missed the cut? No way they could have guessed what a magic tournament it would be and the numbers they’d still enjoy.

Were the repeated commercials for Cialis and Levitra just a coincidence?

It was gripping drama. The only real disappointment to me was the way he struck the putt to win the championship. The tepid effort spoke volumes about his anxiety.
Good for Cink. It will make a world of difference to his career.

Shane

July 19th, 2009
8:10 pm

Tom Watson was the story dummies. In 2 years no one will even remember Cinks name

Billy

July 19th, 2009
8:15 pm

and in 10 years, no one will remember that Watson did this. People who try to downplay Cink’s efforts are really sad. And in GA, it means that they hate him because he’s a Techie

BugKiller

July 19th, 2009
8:23 pm

No, Billy, those who follow golf will NEVER forget Tom Watson.

I’ve already forgotten Stew Cink, and it has nothing to do with him being a bug.

Sometimes, the gripping story doesn’t end with a happy ending. That’s life.

But you are a seriously delusional bug if you believe most people will forget what Tom Watson accomplished this past week.

Cink will never be the story and will be forgotten. Yeah, it sucks for him, but there’s a reason why he’s not a Woods, Mickelson, or a Harrington.

woodie

July 19th, 2009
8:24 pm

I wanted Watson to win but at least a local who played at Georgia Tech took the tournament. I’m happy for both guys.

Billy

July 19th, 2009
8:39 pm

Hey, BugKiller, I’m a golf fan, too. People who are REAL fans of golf (i.e. not Tiger Woods fans) will remember that Cink won the Open. People who watch because they love a certain person will only remember the Watson story. Hell, I’m a Cink fan, and I had forgotten how long it had been since he choked in the US Open. I love Tom Watson as a player, but I’m extremely excited that one of the good guys won today. This should go beyond football loyalties…

BugKiller

July 19th, 2009
8:43 pm

Billy, you’re a moron.

Who won the 1996 Masters?

Oh, that’s right, no one remembers. But we do remember Greg Norman losing an insurmountable lead and losing The Masters.

Norman LOST The Masters. No one won it that year.

Tom Watson LOST The Open this year.

No one won it.

That is what people will remember.

Don’t be a bug homer douche.

79

July 19th, 2009
8:45 pm

Steve,
I have no idea if Stewart Cink is a nice guy or if he is, as you say, a “piece of sh**”….but I don’t believe that you do either…even if he “totally blew you off” at the big post-tournament party at your “bosses” house….. this after you told him about your sister’s 3rd grade teacher’s son being in his wedding and all…

Billy

July 19th, 2009
8:49 pm

Wow. You really got me there, buddy. I guess I’m a moron AND a douche. You obviously have a master’s experience with the English language. I’m in awe of your intellect. I was trying to be polite, but you managed to turn it into something else. And the “bug” part shows that you don’t REALLY care about Tom Watson or golf as much as you care about trying to tear down GT. Get a life, buddy. Tom Watson is a great champion. He played a mediocre round today. Stewart Cink made the putts that needed to be made. If you REALLY care about golf, you would acknowledge that. Heck, he had 4 holes to beat Cink in the playoff…

Billy

July 19th, 2009
8:56 pm

Gotta love the AJC blogs. Lots of idiots trashing each other. And that goes for UGA AND GT fans. Seriously, people. Get a life. The best football in the country is in Texas, and I don’t even see this stupidity between UT/A&M/Texas Tech.

Phil McCrotch

July 19th, 2009
9:04 pm

Steve, sounds like a you problem.

Reid Adair

July 19th, 2009
9:13 pm

Mark, it was an amazing day for golf fans. And when you throw out the vast majority of the comments above that have little (if anything) to do with the subject of your post, I think most true golf fans will admit they are happy for Stewart Cink.

Would I have liked to see Tom Watson win? Yes, but he didn’t. Personally, I thought it was over when he birdied 17 and Lee Westwood bogied 18 – but I was wrong.

Cink did what he had to do to give himself a chance, and Watson’s missed 8-foot putt gave Cink that chance. From that point on, it was Cink. He was 2-under for the four playoff holes. Even withotu the disaster on the third playoff hole, I’m not sure Watson could have matched that.

GT Alum

July 19th, 2009
9:30 pm

I went to Tech and played football while Cink was on the golf team. He was as nice of a guy as you’d ever meet. Steve- you must have been the problem at “the party.” He was the best player to not win a major until today. Go Jackets!

Bank Walker

July 19th, 2009
9:40 pm

sounds like Steve is a broken hearted, jock sniffer.

Dr Henry / Augusta

July 19th, 2009
9:41 pm

Good column Mark! Esp. when you called out R. Reilly…Only way to look at this tho is that Watson made some poor decisions and poor shots on 18…When his third shot went 8 ft past there was no doubt of there being a playoff….Also there was no doubt that Watson would have no chance over 4 holes…Maybe in 1 hole of sudden death he could have bested Cink but not four because his confidence was kapooey!!! I didnt even watch the playoff….Didnt realize he lost so badly until reading it online just now….At least the Braves are winning!!!

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2009
10:08 pm

I thought Watson was going to win when Westwood blew up. But there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as it were.

Boss Hogg

July 19th, 2009
10:32 pm

Typical UGA fans, with the exception of Rabun Dawg, to be jealous of a Tech guy winning. When has a UGA golfer ever done anything, much less win a major? It proves you can have compelling golf without Eldrick playing.

NRBQ

July 19th, 2009
11:38 pm

Actually, Mark, Watson’s first words were, “Hey, this isn’t a funeral.”

Reilly is a top-grade doosh.

rlinaug

July 19th, 2009
11:39 pm

Rick Reilly is the most successful hack in the history of sports journalism. His attempts to crystallize the moment always always always fall short. He resorts to insults because his insight is lacking. He proves over and over that he not only lacks talent but also class. Sorry for the rant, Mark. His little essay immediately following the tournament today was gracious enough, but Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange came closer to nailing the moment than Riley. If the ESPN site had some e-mail address where folks could submit complaints, I’d have sent this little missive to them instead of here.

Again, great work.

PMC

July 19th, 2009
11:40 pm

As likeable as Stewart Cink is, I think he absolutely will be treated as a true major champion that he now is. I’d not be surprised if he parlayed it into another one.

I can’t help but feel disapointed though. I’d loved to have seen Watson get his 9th major and 6th Open Championship. He played incredibly all week only to lose it on essentially nerves with that last putt on 18.

It’s just mostly unfortunate that it lacks the punch of the dual in the sun because Watson fell apart and either the nerves or the age got to him. If anything can be said in this wake it’s that Stewart Cink is not going to be intimidated by the stage and nerves will not sway him from a major title.

He’s been in the hunt the last couple of years and now he made good on it. Cink has clearly put himself above that pack of players who “should be good enough” to win a major and has affirmed it. It’s mostly disapointing that Stewart Cink came on late and didn’t get more TV time before the playoff really.

Not Disappointed

July 20th, 2009
12:06 am

Congrats Dude and your family! Go Jackets!!!!!

wattzy

July 20th, 2009
12:15 am

Stop!! Georgia Tech had nothing to do with what Cink did today.. I am the chef at Sugarloaf and I love that guy. He is always traveling and his family will come in and they are just really good people.. So is Mr. Cink. When he comes back into town, you should see the smiles on his kid’s face’s. I was rooting for Tom, but Mr. Cink won a good one today.. I have been through the last 6 tourneys at the Loaf and we were all rooting for him. He didn’t have much luck. This is coming from the biggest DAWG fan you will ever meet.

grahzny bratchny

July 20th, 2009
12:26 am

UGA fan here – I was pulling for Cink because he is from the area. Golf is an individual sport, the fact the he went to Tech is of little consequence – never hear much love for Duval… Cink seems to have been working for this for a while and deserved to win. Maybe Watson choked, perhaps he forgot what it takes to win a major. Not likely.

It’s not like Cink is on the Tech baseball or basketball team, he has finally learned how to win…

Congratulations Stewaret! Tech sucks – you don’t.

wattzy

July 20th, 2009
12:42 am

Thanks brother.. We get to play as employees on mondays.. There was one time when we came down the green right in front of his house and he was sitting out on the green putting. Mr. Cink did not expect us to come up at all.. We yelled out move we are hitting. When we drove up on the cart we saw who it was. I was shocked. He said he was having some problems and this is what he does to get away.. From then on, I was a fan

JASon

July 20th, 2009
2:05 am

It was great to see the old golfer crap the bed on espn. What a brutally scum organization.

Ted Striker

July 20th, 2009
6:05 am

My Stewart Cink story:

I remember seeing Stewart Cink at one of his early Masters, maybe his first as a pro. Cink had reached the green with an approach and was walking up to check out the lie of the ball for his putt. As he’s walking by, the woman standing next to me yells out toward him — “Stewart!!! Stewart!!!!” So he looks over at her and she beckons him over. He leans in next to her and she whispers “I forgot my purse…I need money for something to drink.”

Cink looks at her and says “Honey, this is the Masters. I’m kinda busy.” Then he fumbles around in a pocket but has no wallet or cash. I was getting ready to give her some money — a man should be able to putt in the Masters without worrying about whether his wife is thirsty — but his caddy pulled out his wallet and handed her a $20. Cink nailed the putt and everyone was happy.

MrDan

July 20th, 2009
7:33 am

Stewart Cink won because it was his time to win. Tom Watson hung in there because of experience. No one in the game has played links better than him. You’re right, it would have been a great story-and it was. But all of this kind of reminds me of Andy Rooney saying Cal Ripken Jr. should “sit out a game” so Lou Gehrig’s name should stay on the record for most consecutive games played. I’m sure Ripken was thinking ‘yeah, right’ after playing 2,631 consectutive mlb games. Just as Stewart was thinking about all the years of practice and competing and believing he had what it takes to win a major. Congratulations to you Stewart. It was your time and may you do so again. And thank you Tom Watson. I’m sure there’s thousands of old boys like me who will hit the course this week thinking we too can play this game again.

dd

July 20th, 2009
7:34 am

none of this matters; tech still has ugly women