Stewart Cink: Getting Better with Age
One of the biggest surprises on the PGA Tour this season has been the reemergence of Stewart Cink, who went over a decade without a tournament win but is now third in the 2021 FedExCup Season Standings.
Cink, who turns 48 on May 21st, most recently won the RBC Heritage in mid-April, dominating the field and breaking tournament records for the lowest 36- and 54-hole scores ever. The win was his second of the season after a title at the Safeway Open in September. The September win was Cink’s first since claiming the 2009 Open Championship.
Of Cink’s eight PGA tournament wins in a long and distinguished golf career, two have occurred in the last seven months. In this season’s two wins, Cink was a total of 40-under-par.
Just Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas rank ahead of Cink in the point standings; at 27, both are 20 years younger than Cink. In fact, both were preschoolers when Cink was named the PGA Rookie of the Year in 1997.
Inside the Comeback
So, what is the reason behind the comeback?
Cink points to many factors for his improved play, while also being cautious to reveal too much about the changes he has made. Cink’s son Reagan has been caddying for his dad much of this season and was on the bag for both tournament wins. When Cink talks about tournament preparation and shot planning he faithfully refers to “we”, a collaboration of father and son.
“He and I have always been on the same wavelength,” the elder Cink said at a press conference after the RBC Heritage. “I can’t tell you how much fun it is to have him caddying for me.”
Cink points to this mental planning and preparation as a big reason for his recent success.
Then, there is the physical preparation. At a trim 6’ 4”, Cink looks as fit as many players half his age. Cink has thrived under new fitness coach Cornel Driessen, who stresses flexibility and strength. Cink also credits swing coach Mike Lipnick, short game coach James Sieckmann and some equipment changes for his more efficient launch and spin rates this season.
Cink has played in 15 tournaments this season, so there is also something to be said for his stamina. Still, the veteran is relieved that the second win of the season earns him an exemption into the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June, saving the need to compete in a qualifier. The U.S. Open appearance will be Cink’s first since 2017.
Getting Better With Age
Can Cink continue the trend and become one of the most successful 40-and-older golfers on the PGA Tour? If so, he would join some elite company.
Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus both won three major championships after turning 40 and Tiger Woods was 43 when he won the 2019 Masters. Julius Boros was the oldest golfer to win a men’s major title; Boros was 48 years and four months old when he bested Arnold Palmer to win the 1968 PGA Championship.
Ironically, it was Cink who spoiled the chance for the golf world’s first and only 50-and-older major champion. Tom Watson was 59 when he lost to Cink in a playoff of the 2009 Open Championship.