If Tiger Woods makes golf sexy, Stewart Cink is the game's flannel nightgown.
Cink is like the head of his Nike driver -- oversized, and pretty close to square.
So while Cink collected handshakes on Tuesday at Hazeltine at the first major since his first major victory, a father by the first tee pointed and told his son, "That one won the British Open! ... No, the tall one."
It's been that kind of month for Cink, who played Hazeltine's back nine Tuesday while preparing for the PGA Championship.
At Turnberry, it took about an hour for Cink to go from the nice guy who couldn't win the big one to the prankster who ruined the cover of the next AARP Magazine, when he crushed popular-as-a-tax-cut Tom Watson in a playoff. Cink might as well have shot Ol' Yeller.
"For a minute there," Cink said, when asked about Watson, "I thought maybe Tom did win the Open."
Nope, it was the 6-4, 205-pound bald guy who got married and started a family before graduating from Georgia Tech, the guy so nice it would be hard to imagine him playing mind games with a 59-year-old legend.
But after Cink made a birdie putt on 18 at Turnberry, and Watson made bogey to set up the playoff, Cink suddenly took a keen interest in cleaning his cuticles.
"I just really didn't want to be the one standing on the tee when Tom walked up, and to hear that huge roar of applause," Cink said. "I wanted to be the last one to talk out there, because I knew they were going to be for Tom. It didn't take a genius to figure that out. And so I just took a little bathroom break and it took me an extra 30 seconds, maybe a minute, to get there. I felt like that was the right thing to do, competitively."
Cink found himself putting the Claret Jug through the X-ray machine at the airport, and offering his Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Stewart Cink on David Letterman, including No. 7 ("Most people think I sell plumbing supplies") and No. 1 ("Even I was rooting for Tom Watson.").
To celebrate his first major, Cink vacationed in Montana. After hiking in a national park, the two Suburbans filled with his friends picked up a hitchhiker. Cink was in the second truck. The hitchhiker jumped in the first, and, after they passed a golf course, wound up asking Cink's friends, "Man, can you believe what happened to Tom Watson?"
Cink's friends told the passenger, "We kind of liked that, because Stewart Cink is one of our best friends and he's in the Suburban right back there." The passenger didn't believe them, and didn't check the second Suburban when he got out. "He still doesn't know to this point," Cink said.
Cink played Tuesday with his buddy Zach Johnson, the Iowegian who won the 2007 Masters. They both work with sports psychologist Morris (Mo) Pickens, whose hat reads "Dr. Mo" on the side, and who also coaches this year's U.S. Open winner, Lucas Glover.
Cink's group, including swing coach Butch Harmon, wandered the back nine chatting about sweet tea, sun tea, I-phones, restaurants and Iowa geography, but Cink is serious about his routine. He started his day at about 10 a.m. with Harmon on the practice tee and was one of the last players off the putting green, with Pickens, at 5:15 p.m.
Cink said Harmon rebuilt his swing, starting in 2002, and his recent work with Pickens revitalized his putting and thinking. "He's a great putter," Pickens said. "He had just gotten away from some of the stuff he had done. Like a lot of these guys, they get too into the result, care too much about making it or missing it."
At the 2001 U.S. Open, Cink three-putted on the final hole to miss a playoff. At the 2009 British, he drained a 15-footer on the 18th to get into a playoff he would dominate.
"I think many years from now, people will look back and remember that Watson almost won the Open," Cink said. "It might take them a second, but I think they'll remember that I ended up being the winner."
If Cink wins this week, even the hitchhiker might remember his name.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • email@example.com