Stewart Cink owns a major championship win, a British Open to be more specific. But you might be excused for not knowing.
That’s because Cink might be the most underappreciated and unrecognized winner in the history of this 161-year-old championship. To explain: he won the 2009 British Open, i.e., the one Tom Watson almost won.
At the age of 59, Watson came within an 8-foot par putt of winning his sixth British Open at Turnberry, a storybook performance that captured everyone’s imagination, everyone that was breathing, that is.
The fact Cink actually beat Watson, prevailing in a four-hole playoff, became a sidebar.
Cink understands. "The whole playoff with Tom Watson was something that was almost an out-of-body experience … ” Cink told Garrett Johnston on his "Beyond The Clubhouse" podcast. “I remember watching that in the present — myself — but also it was almost felt like I watched it on television. It was almost like a time machine we were in.”
That said, the past few months have been time-machine friendly. Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at the age of 50, becoming the oldest major championship winner in history. Last month, 48-year-old Richard Bland had a share of the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open, the oldest player ever to have that position.
And now the 48-year old Cink is banging on the door at Royal St. George’s, opening this 149th edition with a 4-under 66, threatening to become the oldest British Open champion. That distinction currently belongs to “Old Tom” Morris, who was 46 when he won in 1867.
“I think today was what I would've hoped for for an opening round, for the most part,” Cink said. “My son Reagan and I have a pretty good game plan for this course, and we got to push that into operation today.
“It was pretty smooth round. So I know I've been around these Opens enough that there will be a lot of challenges, a lot of travails out there over the week. Today I mostly avoided them.”
But Cink’s situation should come as no surprise. Last September, he captured the Safeway Open, winning for the first time since the aforementioned British Open. In April, he did it again, winning the RBC Heritage by four shots for his eighth PGA Tour victory.
What’s more, the spiritual Cink has support all around him. His son, Reagan, is his caddie. And his wife, Lisa, is his inspiration.
Lisa was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in April 2016. She battled back and was in remission. But earlier this week, before starting the championship, Cink revealed Lisa’s recent tests have been disconcerting.
“She is in the middle of a little period of uncertainty right now that we just learned about last week,” he told the Mirror. “We will know more in a couple of months.
“She is not going to be out of the woods for really the rest of her life. Hopefully this is just a little scare and we will know more in about two months. But for now she is doing well and we have a lot of faith and confidence in her medical team.”
Meanwhile, Cink has a lot of confidence in his golf, which produced four birdies and a bogey-free trip on Thursday, which features stellar iron game that favors the roly-poly texture of Royal St. George’s.
“I feel like I've got a lot of experience and I like the way my game has been the last 10 or 12 months,” Cink added. “I'm having a great time, so I'm not too stressed out about the results.
“I'm hoping to get in the mix and give this thing a run like I did in 2009 and try to draw on some of those memories.”
You know, those memories that include a British Open championship.
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