Some days, ya got it. Other days, ya don’t.
On Thursday, Stewart Cink didn’t have it.
“It really hurts to have a day like today, because I love playing here,” Cink said following his six-over 78 in the opening round of the 150th Open Championship on the storied Old Course.
That can happen to even the best players in the world here on this bumpy, wind-battered links, and not only because their swings aren’t cooperating. To post a number on the Old Course, you also need to have your wits about you. Avoiding pot bunkers and leaving approach shots in the right spots on and around the greens requires golfers to think their way around the course like a captain tacking a vessel through stormy waters. One poor choice can Cink…er, sink you.
Take the par-3 8th, which on the card in the first round played about 190 yards. With the wind and the crispiness of the ground, Cink estimated he needed to play only a 170-yard shot to the back-left pin. Nope, too much. His ball trundled off the back, leading to a bogey. Later, Cink estimated that to be pin high he needed only to carry his ball about 155 yards.
“I felt like it was just one bad decision after another out there,” said Cink, who this week is playing in his 23rd Open Championship. “I kept being wrong. I’m not really accustomed to that.”
He added, “You get off the rails, and you just feel like you stay off the rails.”
The derailing began early, at the par-4 1st. After splitting the sprawling fairway, Cink had only 83 yards left to the hole. But when he hit his approach only 72 yards, it disappeared into the burn that fronts the green. A drop, chip and putt later, Cink had an opening bogey.
Over the ensuing 16 holes, he made five more bogeys against a lone birdie, which brings us to his tee shot at the iconic 18th hole, which shares a fairway with the 1st. There’s only one place you can’t afford to miss with your tee shot on 18, and that’s right, where a busy pedestrian thoroughfare called The Links lines the entirety of the hole.
Cink missed right. Like, way right. A lucky fan on The Links had an unexpected souvenir.
Cink is a jovial soul and good sport, so despite the tough start and finish to his round, he still found a positive in his struggles.
“I might have set a record today,” he said. “I might be the first person ever to hit it in the burn on 1 and hit it O.B. on 18 in the same round. I don’t know, but it was just not a day for me in any way. I couldn’t judge lies right. I read putts wrong, and I also executed some shots pretty poorly. Overall, it adds up to about 78.”
Here’s some better news: On Friday, Cink parred the 1st and birdied 18. With three other birdies against as many bogeys, it added up to a much-improved score, a one-under 71.