PGA Tour

Cink's season takes a quick turn for the better

2018-08-22 10:56
stewart cink
Stewart Cink (Getty Images)

Paramus - Stewart Cink enters the FedEx Cup playoffs at No 58 in the standings, his best starting position since 2010.

Thanks to a tie for fourth at the PGA Championship, he will return to the Masters for the first time in five years.

He would not have seen this coming three months ago.

"The main thing that happened was ... what you think are bad circumstances turn out to be good circumstances," Cink said.

Cink enjoys the late spring because he typically plays well on some of those courses, such as Colonial, Muirfield Village and Quail Hollow. Bad final rounds turned potential top 10s into middle-of-the-pack, if not lower. The final straw was Memorial, where he ended a streak of making the cut in 19 consecutive appearances.

"I felt like crap playing bad golf," Cink said.

"I had to have a little bit of something to wake me up. I didn't do anything new, I just recommitted to what I was working on the last year."

That can be a tall order for a 45-year-old whose last victory was the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. Cink put in time with swing coach Mike Lipnick, and he started hitting the ball the way he envisioned the flight. Over the next two months, he had three top 5s - a runner-up at the Travelers Championship when he closed with a 62, and a tie for fourth at the St. Jude Classic and the PGA Championship.

The real test was at Bellerive, where he played in the raucous arena with Tiger Woods in the third round and matched his 66. In the mix at a major for longer than he can remember, Cink finished with two birdies for a 67 to tie for fourth.

"Being paired with Tiger helped me," Cink said.

"I was nervous playing with the Tiger. The crowd was a factor. It felt like a Ryder Cup. It was a great challenge, and I really wanted to embrace it and test myself and see how well I can hang in there. I didn't have the option to fall back into a comfort zone. There wouldn't have been one in that group. I'm proud of myself the way I played."

Cink's five-year exemption to the Masters from his British Open victory ran out in 2014, when he shot 68 on Sunday and missed by one shot finishing in the top 12 to earn a trip back to Augusta National. He looks forward to going back.

But that's in April. Ahead of him is a chance to return home to East Lake for the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009.

"I'm super excited," he said. "I have a better chance to go back to East Lake, and that's a goal from here on out to see if I can make it."

More than recommitting to his golf, Cink said his heart is in the right place. The last two years have provided the ultimate test after his wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. He said her health has been steady - no setbacks - the last several months.

"It goes without saying that my life has taken on a different perspective," Cink said.

"I'm enjoying playing golf. I don't have anything to lose. I'm having fun competing, testing myself. There's no downside. I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self that."


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