Stewart Cink said Sunday that he got a tip from his wife, Lisa. She said, Sometimes you have to be willing to run across the green naked, Cink said.
Which is something youll probably never read in any instruction or golf psychology book. At least not those exact words.
Cink, before the first golf ball went into the air Sunday at Hartford, was always going to be the first litmus test of a remaining 2008 without Tiger Woods.
He passed. He won the Travelers Championship by a shot over Tommy Armour III and defending champion Hunter Mahan.
Cink has been having a wonderful year. And he entered the final round with a two-shot lead. That was the good news.
The bad news was that on the previous nine occasions Cink went into the last day with at least a share of the lead he had won just once. The most notable of these disappointments was the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills where Cink missed an inside-the-leather putt on the 72d green that kept him from joining a playoff in which Retief Goosen defeated Mark Brooks.
The whole sports world is going to be looking at golf and its best players a little differently until Tiger returns. And people are going to be a little harsher on the players that have stuck around to fight the good fight. Cink is one of those players.
He is a certain Ryder Cupper this fall and an almost certain Presidents Cupper next year. Can players like Cink and world No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who had such a disappointing U.S. Open home game at Torrey Pines South, carry the American flag against the recently-dominant European side at the Ryder Cup in September at Valhalla in Kentucky?
Cink has previously played in three Ryder Cups. He has won three, lost five and tied four matches. He has never played on a winning Ryder Cup team. However, comma, he did destroy Euro mainstay Sergio Garcia 4 and 3 in the Sunday singles at the K Club two years ago. In Presidents Cup matches Cink is 8-4-1 with a shiny 4-1-0 record in alternate shot.
Prior to Sunday, Cink hadnt won since the 2004 WGC-NEC Invitational. He led the TOUR in putting one year, the first player to do so with long putter. And, he said, Saturday, Ive pretty much done everything but win a lot.
But he was getting to be a notorious non-finisher. And he was well aware that people see what Woods does and what the rest of the best players dont.
Any time Tigers sniffing the lead he just seems to will it through, Cink said. Then youve got the way I was, which, when it seemed like anytime theres a chance to lose, I lose.
So Lisa Cink gave her husband the advice. He didnt actually disrobe on the golf course and streak to victory. But he played unafraid golf.
Only four previous career wins in America going into Hartford for Cink. Earlier this year he said he fell asleep on two shots in the final round of the PODS Championship. And, he said, it cost him the tournament.
So Cink showed up Sunday at the TPC River Highlands determined to keep his eyes wide open. A bogey on the fourth hole after three opening pars was not the kind of start he was looking for. But a birdie on the sixth pushed him back into a one-shot lead over a group of players.
At no point after that did Cink lose his lead. He made just the one bogey all day. Im not trying to prove anything to anybody thats out there writing stories or doing articles or whatever, but to myself, he said. I wanted to prove something to myself.
He did just that. And he proved something to all the critics who are now looking at players through the demanding prism tinted by Woods absence.
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