Cinks focused on positives despite cancer diagnosis

By Rex HoggardJune 8, 2016, 9:05 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – He was supposed to be in New Orleans at the annual PGA Tour stop but Stewart Cink forgot to commit in time.

“First time in 20 years,” he sighed. “I was beating myself up, ‘Can’t believe I forgot to commit. Now I’m not going to play. Going to have to add a tournament.’ Turns out that Wednesday of New Orleans is when she got the phone call.”

It’s the call no one ever wants to receive. Cink’s wife, Lisa, had advanced breast cancer and would begin chemotherapy treatments 12 days later.

Commitment deadlines, points lists and golf all became immediate afterthoughts for Cink. Whatever his wife’s future would be, he planned on being there every step of the way.

The Tour community, as it does so many times, circled around the Cinks.

Players, caddies and officials wore ribbons to support Lisa Cink during last month’s Players, and on Wednesday, Cink ran into Phil Mickelson in the locker room at TPC Southwind for the first time since Lisa was diagnosed. Amy Mickelson, who survived breast cancer in 2009, was one of the first phone calls Lisa Cink received after being diagnosed, and Lefty wanted to offer Stewart a few words of encouragement.

“Amy has been an angel, just awesome for Lisa,” Cink said.

It’s something of a cliché how life threatening experiences put the mundane things into perspective, but for Cink, his wife’s cancer goes well beyond mitigating the stress that comes with being a professional athlete.

“It’s lowered all of the other expectations in my life except for surviving and for Lisa’s survival,” Cink said. “Golf and the kids and how they did on their finals. The fights that me and Lisa were in, we were constantly bickering at each other because we’re married and that’s what people do, all that completely dropped away.”

Life has slowly returned to something approaching normal and last Sunday Lisa asked if Stewart planned to play this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.

He did not. In fact, he didn’t know when he planned to play again.

His first tournament back following Lisa’s diagnoses two weeks ago at the Dean & Deluca Invitational didn’t go well and he didn’t think he should leave home again with so many unanswered questions.


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“She said, ‘What if I wanted to go?’” Cink said. “It’s not getting back to normal, because I don’t know when I’m going to play again. It’s a glimpse of normal. It feels great because she came here, she wanted to get out of the house. She’s around and I can see her in the morning and at night, I can check on her. She feels good.”

It’s a dramatic contrast to his week at Colonial, his first event back when he arrived late on Wednesday, played two rounds and missed the cut.

“I realized quickly that I didn’t want to be there without her,” Cink said.

Being on the road again, together, is proving to be therapeutic for both Lisa and Stewart, much like his updates on CaringBridge.org, an online community for people battling cancer where he has explained the details of his wife’s cancer and the treatment process.

Lisa has now gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and as Cink picked at a hurried lunch on Wednesday at TPC Southwind prior to his pro-am tee time, there were no updates.

“All we know now is she’s having treatment and she’s been doing OK. There have been some down moments and some ups, but overall she’s feeling better than we thought she would during chemotherapy,” Cink said.

Nor does he have any update on when he may return to competitive golf full time. If Lisa’s health continues to allow her to travel he envisions a handful of starts before the end of the season, but it seems unlikely he’ll play next month’s Open Championship, an event he won in 2009.

Lisa is scheduled to return to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston that week for her next checkup, a pivotal juncture for any cancer patient.

“There’s no chance I’m going to be away for that,” he said. “No way I’d be anywhere but there with her. I don’t want to miss [the Open], but because I won it I have a lot of Opens I can play in the future.”

But then his schedule was not a concern on Wednesday as he prepared for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The truth is, even the debilitating demands of chemotherapy weren’t a primary concern either, at least compared to what is, for many, the most difficult part of battling cancer.

“The hardest part is not knowing what the future is going to look like. Always thinking about what if I die? That’s what’s hard for her,” he said. “The chemo, you get through the grind of being tired and the sickness knowing that’s part of the fight, part of war. You know if you can endure this I can beat cancer. But that doesn’t take away from the stress of not knowing.”

For now, however, Cink is content focusing on the more encouraging elements of their cancer battle, as counterintuitive as that may seem.

“We don’t know what the future is going to hold, but we are already reaping the rewards and benefits of post-cancer life,” he said. “Our marriage has never been better.”

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Woods now listed as Masters betting favorite

By Will GraySeptember 24, 2018, 12:03 am

Now officially a winner again on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has become a popular bet for folks thinking about next year's Masters.

The trip down Magnolia Lane is still seven months away, but Woods' breakthrough victory at the Tour Championship has led bettors to flock to the window to lay down cash on the four-time champ to add green jacket No. 5 next spring at age 43.

Woods was listed at 12/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook when odds opened after the PGA Championship, behind only 2015 champ Jordan Spieth. That's where he remained for the subsequent six weeks, but after a stirring performance at East Lake Golf Club he's now listed as the 9/1 betting favorite for the first major of 2019.

Here's a look at the latest odds via the Westgate, as many of the top contenders head to Paris for the Ryder Cup:

9/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Jordan Spieth

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

16/1: Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Jon Rahm

20/1: Jason Day

25/1: Bubba Watson

30/1: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Tony Finau

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Woods: Support from Tour friends 'meant a lot to me'

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 11:54 pm

ATLANTA – As Tiger Woods approach the 18th green on Sunday at the Tour Championship, with thousands of fans – literally – breathing down his neck, Davis Love III crouched down inside the ropes, on top of a mound to take it all in. He was joined by Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

Rickie Fowler was waiting. Tommy Fleetwood was watching from the clubhouse balcony. Paul Casey was there. So, too, were Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas.

They all wanted to witness Woods win for the first time in five physically debilitating, at times personally destructive, years. They wanted to congratulate, not just a peer, but a friend.

What that meant to Woods, well, he tried to describe. But words don’t do justice what the support of others means to someone who has been through so much.

“The people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years,” Woods said. “Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me.”


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Of course, all of these players have one thing in common: They are all headed to Paris for this Ryder Cup, either as players or vice captains.

There were 17 Ryder Cup players in the 30-man Tour Championship field – 11, including Woods, on the U.S. side.

The Americans were set to take a charter flight to France on Sunday night. That means everyone aboard will get to partake in the celebrations. And Tiger will get to enjoy the camaraderie, something lacking from the years when he won 79 PGA Tour events.

“Flying tonight with the guys, it’s going to be fun,” Woods said.

“I think we’re all going to sleep well.”

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TT Postscript: Finally, officially, Tiger Woods is back

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 11:47 pm

ATLANTA, Ga. – He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Here are some things I think I think after watching Tiger Woods end a five-year winless drought and capture his 80th career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Tour Championship.

• There’s only one place to start. That walk down 18. Tiger Woods leading throngs of maniacs (and me) into an arena only he can create, only he can star in, only he can thrive in. That was a security nightmare, and I’m sure whatever entities hold the insurance policies on Tiger and Rory were pulling their corporate hair out, but that was a scene you can’t really stage. A scene you can’t recreate. Not like that. Not with that level of exaltation. Every single person who has followed Tiger Woods’ career – every single person who loves the game of golf – felt like they were following Tiger in that crowd up 18. Regardless of whether you root for him or against him, you know no one else in the game can create a spectacle like that. After the surgeries, and the scandals, and the personal demons, Tiger Woods teared up, tapped in, put his arms in the air, and soaked in a kind of redemption none of us will ever fully understand.

• He admitted he almost cried twice on the way in. He almost cried in the crowd en route to the front bunker, and he almost cried after Rory McIlroy ceded the stage on the 72nd green. For years, he was invulnerable. Impenetrable. That was his aura. That aura was later shattered at too many different points along the way. There was a popular thought that Tiger Woods couldn’t be Tiger Woods without that same air of invincibility – that edge. But on Sunday, the golf world and Tiger himself saw that he could be vulnerable and a champion. Notah Begay perhaps put it best when he suggested on Golf Central that Tiger could, moving forward, strike a balance between playing with an edge and playing with a sense of gratitude.



• That gratitude seems genuine, too. He thought he was done. More than that, at his lowest point, he didn’t know what was going to be left of his life.

“Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn't want to live that way,” he said in the interview room. “This is how the rest of my life is going to be? It's going to be a tough rest of my life. And so – I was beyond playing. I couldn't sit. I couldn't walk. I couldn't lay down without feeling the pain in my back and my leg.”

Now the roars, the support, the embrace, the victory – it all means a little more. Tiger Woods seems like a guy who took everything he had for granted, faced down the possibility of losing it all, and came out on the other end.


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• As for what exactly he really went through, maybe we’ll never know. Maybe we’ll never know how deep and dark that hole went. But clearly there’s an inner circle that knows. And that includes some of Tiger’s colleagues on Tour.

“You know, the people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years,” he said. “Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me.”

• Tiger has been the face of golf for the last two decades. And that’s why it’s so weird to think that anyone can conceive of him as anything other than the most dominant player in the history of the game. But his kids are young enough that they really don’t know. Hearing him discuss his family Sunday night was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

“I think they understand a little bit of what Dad does now. I hadn't won any tournaments in which they can remember, so I think this will be a little bit different for them. … A lot of times they equated golf to pain because every time I did it, I would hurt, and it would cause me more pain. And so now they're seeing a little bit of joy and seeing how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again.”

• So where do we go from here? To Paris, where Tiger through a wry smile suggested that everyone is going to sleep well on the U.S. plane tonight. Uh huh.

• But what’s next in that big-picture sense? Does he pass Sam? Does he catch Jack? Hell, I don’t know. I never thought we’d get to this point again. And neither did he. Maybe it’ll never get any better than this. But you know, it just might.

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With 80 wins, Woods eyes 'chipping away' at Snead

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 11:38 pm

ATLANTA – Round numbers just feel better than the crooked ones.

80.

It’s only one more than 79, but it’s prettier and more historically significant.

“Eighty is a big number,” Tiger Woods said after winning the Tour Championship to reach that amazing tally in Tour wins. “I’ve been sitting on 79 for about five years now, and to get 80 is a pretty damned good feeling.”

Not since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational had Woods hoisted a trophy. And in those five winless years, he endured multiple surgeries; more personal turmoil; and doubt that he’d ever live a comfortable life, let alone play professionally.

80.

That puts him two wins from tying Sam Snead on the all-time PGA Tour wins list. What once seemed like a lock, then appeared unlikely, is attainable once again.


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This is more than just a nice, round number, however. More than an opportunity to be called the winningest Tour player ever.

For Woods, this is a recognized and appreciative product of grace and good fortune.

“To kind of get to the 80 mark is a big number," Woods said. 'Sam is still ahead of me. I've still got, I feel like, a chance to play some more golf and maybe I'll keep chipping away at that number and maybe surpass it. 

“But I just think that what I've gone through and what I've dealt with, I've gotten lucky, to be honest with you. I've gotten very lucky. I'm not playing a full-contact sport or I've got to move people around in that regard. At 42 years old with a fused lower spine; that's not going to happen.

“But in this sport, it can. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to have the people around me to have supported me and worked through this process with me, and I've ground out a chance to win golf tournaments again.”