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Dirty Claret Jug a sauce of shame for champ Cink

Defending Open champion Stewart Cink was happy to hand back the Claret Jug ahead of this year's 150th anniversary event at St Andrews -- but only after he had cleaned off some leftover barbecue sauce.

The 37-year-old has put the famous trophy to good use during the past 12 months, celebrating by filling it with Guinness on his return to America after his victory at Turnberry before allowing his children to drink cola out of it at home.

But he narrowly avoided the embarrassment of handing it back to R&A officials on the eve of the tournament covered in sticky barbecue baste after using the historic trophy as part of his American Independence Day celebrations on July 4.

"I actually had to have barbecue sauce cleaned out of it," he said. But it was in fit condition when it went back.

"It wasn't emotional giving it back but just bringing it back I felt a sense of how much that jug means."

Despite his maiden major win 12 months ago Cink will forever be remembered as the man who denied a 59-year-old Tom Watson a sixth Open title after winning a play-off against the veteran.

Not that it bothers the American world number 38.

"I don't feel sorry for him because he got five Claret Jug titles and I only have one," he said. "The joy I've been able to have the last year being the Open Champion has been almost indescribable."

Cink was not a significant name before he won at Turnberry and some suggested at the time of his victory he would quickly join the ranks of the relatively anonymous champions. But he said an incident in Dublin last week, where he was practising, had proved that was not the case.

"I pulled out in front of this taxi who laid on the horn," he said.

"But he was just pointing at me and going 'Good luck!' I went from being embarrassed to being honoured."