British Open Notebook

This Time, Stewart Cink Seizes Major Moment at the British Open

The 138th British Open, played at Turnberry in South Ayrshire, Scotland.
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009; 10:28 PM

TURNBERRY, Scotland, July 19 -- In 2001, when he was just coming into his prime as a professional golfer, Stewart Cink made a double bogey on the final hole of the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa and missed, by one shot, a playoff.

"It wouldn't be human to not wonder . . . is that going to be my closest one?" Cink said. "There were always some doubts there."

Some of those, Cink believes, were relieved Sunday, when he fought his way into a playoff with veteran Tom Watson and won the British Open, his first major championship. In doing so, Cink entered a club he failed to join those eight years ago, that of major winner.

"I'm not sure I really thought much about whether I was good enough to win a major or not," Cink said. "I knew I'd been close a few times, but I never really heard my name tossed in there with the group of best ones not to have won. So maybe I was starting to believe that I wasn't one of the best ones to never have won a major."

That could transform how he experiences tournaments over the next few years. Sunday, the Scottish crowds were behind players such as Watson and Englishman Lee Westwood. Cink was hardly noticed until he entered the playoff.

"I've played plenty of times with Tiger [Woods], and hearing the Tiger roars, and [Phil] Mickelson," Cink said. "I'm usually the guy that the crowd -- they appreciate, but they're not behind me 100 percent. That's the sort of role I've been cast into for my whole career. And hey, that's not the worst."

Watson Wants New Age Rule

As a former winner of the Open -- indeed, someone who has won it five times -- Watson is allowed into the tournament through age 60, which for him will be next year's event at St. Andrews. But that, despite his runner-up finish here, will be it -- unless Watson again finishes in the top 10 and is invited back the following year.

Watson would like Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, which oversees the Open, to lift the age limit for former champions.

"I've laid the gauntlet down to [the media] to ask Peter Dawson to maybe change his mind about the 60-year-old exemption," Watson said. Watson said he fully intends to play at St. Andrews.

"I still have some of the shots to play that golf course," Watson said.

His old rival, Jack Nicklaus, believes Watson could repeat the performance next year.

"Tom will have a chance next year at St. Andrews, too," Nicklaus said in a conversation released Sunday night by his publicist. "With links golf, you don't have to hit it far. With links golf, it's not about power, it's about accuracy."

Marino Places 38th

Fairfax native and University of Virginia grad Steve Marino, who shared the 36-hole lead with Watson, shot a 5-over-par 75 Sunday to finish at 6-over 286 for the tournament, tied for 38th place with, among others, Sergio GarcĂ­a and Vijay Singh. Marino made eight bogeys, including two in the first three holes, and did not challenge for the lead. It was, though, his best finish in a major. . . .

One of the best stories of the Open was the magnificent performance of Italian amateur Matteo Manassero, the British Amateur champion who at age 16 closed with a 69 on Sunday and finished 2 over for the tournament, tied for 13th. "It's a very great achievement," he said.

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