If you remember 2004 and the MCI, the 16th at Harbour Town Golf Links gave us a little drama of a different kind. The 16th at Hilton Head is a par-4, not a par-3. And golf fans werent talking about a chip-in for the ages. Instead, it was a sand shot by Stewart Cink that sent folks into a tizzy. Did he or didnt he brush away sand from behind his ball. Cmon ' you remember. His play from the waste area at the 16th set up par on the fifth playoff holeultimately helping him to edge Ted Purdy.
The approach Cink took was re-played as often during the next few days as Tigers 16th hole Sunday deposit at the Masters. Stewart, who took the next week off and ultimately said he felt like a prisoner in his own home, brushed off the controversy and then went on to win a WGC event later in the year. At years end hed posted his best-ever finish on the money list ' fifth with $4,450,270.
Cink arrives this week as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 11. Thats right, no big four. And as Cink arrives, hes looked at far more differently than he was a year ago.
The 2005 version of Cink is that of a strong-willed, hugely talented player who worked his tail off for success, contention, victories and ultimately a Ryder Cup spot at Oakland Hills.
To know Stewart Cink is to know a player who goes about everything the right way. He handles the media with class. He visits with the fans. He appreciates the game. And ' despite what some believe about last years Sunday at Harbour Town ' he respects everything about playing it the right way.
A Sunday battle with Davis Love (now 12th in the World Golf Ranking) would hardly be a letdown after Augusta. In fact, Cink and Love would be a battle of multiple MCI Heritage champions. Love has five, while Cink tows two tartan jackets behind him.
Hard to believe that with none of the Big Four/Big Five in the field, we could manage to luck our way into a great finish. But, I guarantee that a Cink-Love dual down the stretch would provide a huge gathering of satisfied customers around the famed Lighthouse.
Here are a couple of thoughts on the Masters after thinking things through over the last few days and spending time on various sports talk radio shows:
1. Tiger Woods is the only needle that really moves the PGA Tour. He might not always be at his best (which right now makes him more intriguing than ever) ' and we saw that via the bogey-bogey finish in regulation ' but he seems to find magic like no other. The ratings prove that when hes in contention, its just different. People love him, and people love to hate him. (You know where you fall on that one.) But the bottom line is ' hes the best. His moments of greatness, in the greatest of moments, are far superior to anyone else playing the game today. Period.
2. Jack had his Yes Sir!!! moment in '86 that has been replayed and replayed and replayed. Now Tiger has his.
3. Nike Golf isnt feeling too slighted, given that the ball with the swoosh sat on the lip for all the world to see (and for long enough that I could go to the vending machine for a Diet Coke, come back and still have time to watch it drop.) Nice commercial in the making.
4. Tiger Woods proved that he is golfs superstar of superstars. Chris DiMarco stood taller than the Georgia pines himself and became a true star as well. You can love Woods ' thats easy. But now, youve really gotta love Chris DiMarco.
5. Woods and DiMarco paired together in every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Bank it. Tell me Woods doesnt respect him and Ill tell you youre crazy.
It might not have been the greatest Masters of all time. But given the week of delays and the fact that only two men had a sliver of hope to win, it was the greatest Masters that could have come our way.
So, its time to decompress a bit. Hilton Head Island is the perfect resting place for the PGA Tour this week, and if you know anything about the MCIs history, we wont be disappointed.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann