Cink finding his place in golf history

Even the freshly titled British Open champ isn’t immune from household chores.

Stewart Cink and his family arrived at their home in the Sugarloaf neighborhood of Duluth late Monday afternoon, and three things immediately happened:

One son went inside to take a nap. Another went to play X-box. His wife, Lisa, went to the mall to get a new cellphone.

Who was left to unload all the luggage from a two-week trip to Ireland and Scotland?

That’s right, your 2009 Open champion. But, when you get to carry in one of the boxes that holds the Claret Jug, it’s all good.

No, winning his first major hasn’t changed Cink off the course.

“Now I have an extra trophy that I didn’t have before,” Cink said Monday by phone from his porch. “I’m just so honored to be a part of it. I wouldn’t call myself a historian of the game, maybe a historian of the courses. Seeing the names on that trophy, going back all the way to 1872. That’s bringing out the golf historian in me. I feel like I owe it to them.”

But first, Cink has a few things to do.

He appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman” on Tuesday night to do one of the famous top-10 lists.

He says that winning at Turnberry has opened up some other opportunities that he needs to consider.

But first he’s got a few hundred e-mails, phone calls and tweets to return. A big fan of the Thrashers, he said he was thrilled to get a note of congratulations from Ilya Kovalchuk. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus sent him a note, as did Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick, which “definitely upped the coolness factor.”

He and his family are going to Montana for a vacation next week, and he will return to the PGA Tour at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, in two weeks.

The question that has been asked the most is how did he win the Open. He concedes that it is the last major that he thinks he could win. His game is built more for the Masters, which places an emphasis on power and touch. Links courses require the ability to hit straight shots, trajectory-control, and steady driving. None of which Cink said fit his game particularly well. He points out that in a practice round in Ireland the week before, at a links course named Lahinch Golf Club, he tried as hard as he could and still shot 6 over.

But he found something the Wednesday before the tournament, a “quick key” that he said he took straight to the first tee Thursday.

It helped him hit those two laser 2-irons off the tee at 18 on Sunday during regulation and the playoff.

But the most important key to his win actually came after his worst day this year, a 77 in the third round of The Players Championship in May.

It was then that he decided that changes were needed. He knew he could win, after all he has five victories and more than $25 million earned in his 14 seasons on the tour. But he realized that his putting was going to keep him from being the player that he thought he could be. It no longer was enough to make cuts, finish 30th, and bring home thousands of dollars. He wanted to win the big ones.

After playing with Zach Johnson that day at the TPC, Cink asked him if he could give Johnson’s psychologist, Mo Pickens, a call. Johnson said sure.

Cink went home and started stroking putts with a short putter on an artificial green in his basement.

Three days later, Pickens came from his home at Sea Island for a session that lasted all day.

The next day Cink went to Nike headquarters for a pre-arranged equipment testing session. He said they were surprised when he showed up with a short putter. They gave him a new one to try out. He liked it and told them to build one to his length and put a grip on it.

It turns out it’s the same model that Geoff Ogilvy used to win the U.S. Open, but it’s not on the market yet.

Cink said he leaned heavily on the thought processes and routines that he and Pickens discussed during the British Open, including the birdie putt on 18 that got him to 1 under and into position for a playoff.

“I treated it just like I treated putts all week,” he said. “I won’t say that’s why it went in, but that’s why it had a chance.”

Now, he says he’s ready for next month’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine in Minnesota. He said he was thinking about that as he was unloading the car Monday.

“I’m raring to go,” he said. “It was just so much fun to be there. I just want another chance to come out on top.”