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Cink's life a whirlwind Since Open win

Stewart Cink was as much a fan of what Tom Watson was accomplishing on Sunday at Turnberry as anybody in the grandstands or watching on television.

In fact, Cink said Wednesday, he had to work hard to get those thoughts out of his mind as he was about to play the 59-year-old Hall of Famer in a playoff for the Open Championship.

"Once it became apparent there would be a playoff and I would be playing Tom Watson. ... that's when the bizarre stuff started happening," Cink said during a conference call from his home outside of Atlanta. "He won his first major around the time I was born. It was very strange.

"I knew the people were really pulling for him to win. As a sports fan, it was a tremendous story -- and I was the one standing in the way of it. I had to put that aside, and I took some time to deal with it. How am I going to handle that?

"I've played with Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson], I've been the unnoticed one in the group. I just didn't want to allow that to let my guard down. It actually shored me up and I made sure I was focused and ready to go. I was totally on task. Those playoff holes, I probably played better than any the whole week."

Cink, who birdied the 18th hole in regulation to give himself a shot at the playoff when Watson bogeyed it, then dismantled the five-time Open winner in the four-hole aggregate playoff. Two pars followed by a birdie at the third playoff hole gave him a 4-stroke advantage when Watson played them in 3 over. The 18th hole became a somber coronation as it became apparent that the incredible story of Watson winning his ninth major was not going to happen. Cink made another birdie to win by 6 strokes.

For Cink, 36, it was his first major title and sixth PGA Tour win and puts in play a lot of perks that he didn't think were possible this year. "I had pretty much written off 2009, I was playing so poorly," he said.

But a change in putters and routines gave him confidence in recent weeks, and Cink said he had a "calmness" about him on Sunday that was quite unique. He was also the only player among those within 5 shots of the lead to break par in the final round, shooting 1-under 69 that included four back-nine birdies.

Since then, it has been a whirlwind for Cink, his wife, Lisa, and their two kids, who were along for the trip.

Their belongings at the Turnberry Hotel were quickly moved to the newly named Cink Suite -- there are also Watson, Norman and Price suites, named for the winners of the four Opens played at Turnberry.

A group of two dozen friends met the Cinks at the airport in Atlanta on Monday, and they celebrated by drinking Guinness out of the Claret Jug. On Tuesday, it was off to New York for a reading of a Top 10 list on David Letterman's show. No. 1 on the list? "Even I was rooting for Tom Watson.''

"It's been a really tremendous experience," Cink said. "Almost indescribable. The outlook for this year has certainly changed. ... I had made some major changes in my game, specifically putting. No expectations except to get myself ready for 2010. Got a little bit of confidence, now this. ... It's just been a wonderful experience, maybe a little fast-paced for me."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.