After more than a decade, Stewart Cink got back into the winner's circle Sunday at the Safeway Open.
Cink, 47, has spent more than a decade with a rather notable result for his most recent win: the 2009 Open at Turnberry, when he outlasted Tom Watson in a playoff to capture his lone career major. That was the sixth PGA Tour win of his career, but he hadn't won since. That is, until Sunday's finale in Napa, where Cink closed with a 7-under 65 to secure a two-shot victory over Harry Higgs.
Cink had his son, Reagan, on the bag this week, and the two spent much of the back nine discussing club choices and reading putts. Cink took time away from competition in 2016 to be with his wife, Lisa, while she battled cancer, and with her on site at Silverado Resort & Spa and with his son inside the ropes, it was an emotional win for the affable veteran.
"I've played some good golf over the years, but it's been a while since I really played well over four rounds," Cink said. "When it came time for me to kind of wrestle the bull to the ground, we were able to keep our composure, me and Reagan both - at least it looked like it on the outside - and get the job done."
Cink started the day two shots off the lead but made a charge with four birdies on the front nine. He built a two-shot lead after rolling in a 20-footer from the fringe on No. 15 and sealed the win with a 3-foot birdie on the final green.
Cink failed to make the playoffs last season, with only one top-10 finish in 14 starts, and he hadn't cracked the top 5 since a T-4 finish at the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive. With so much time passing since his watershed win at Turnberry, Cink admitted that he had "come to terms" with the possibility that he might never win again on the PGA Tour.
"I did, but it's not something I was settled or content with," Cink said. "I still compete to try to win, and I work hard on my game. And I just try to squeeze every little bit of juice I can out of my golf game, out of that lemon."
After starting the new wraparound season with only conditional status, Cink is now fully exempt through the 2023 season - which will end months after he turns 50 and becomes eligible to join the PGA Tour Champions. The win also ensures trips to the Sentry Tournament of Champions, The Players, Masters and PGA Championship for Cink in 2021.
"One of the best things about winning the Safeway Open is it's the first tournament of the (season), and you get the rest of the year and the year after that, which yours truly will be turning 50 right around that time (May 2023)," Cink said. "So this is key timing for me to get a win. It will keep me in fields for the rest of my career until I turn 50, and then I can move on to another tour maybe. We'll see."