Prior to his victory at Turnberry on Sunday, Stewart Cink might not have been a household name – almost certainly in the UK at least. But when Stewart Cink’s three-footer on the 76th hole of the British Open dobbled into the cup, a player who had stood on the periphery of public vision stepped from the shadows into plain view.
But just who is Stewart Cink, the man who denied Tom Watson a record-equalling sixth British Open title?
Stewart Cink was born on May 21st, 1973 in Huntsville, Alabama and attended first Bradshaw High School and latterly Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia where he is a product of the Yellow Jackets, which is the name used for all of the intercollegiate athletic teams that play for the Georgia Institute of Technology. The golfing arm of the Yellow Jackets has produced numerous other well known golfers on the US circuit, including David Duval, Larry Mize and Bryce Molder. But perhaps the most famous member of the golfing alumini is the legendary Bobby Jones, who won golf’s grand slam in 1930 and founded the Augusta National Golf Club – home of the US Masters.
Cink turned professional in1995 and won four events on the Nike Tour (now the Nationwide Tour) in only his second season. His haul included the Mexican Open and the following year, 1997, Cink joined the full PGA Tour.
However, strangely, for a player who has on occasion ranked within the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, Cink’s tournament win record is modest since he became a full member of the tour. Until Sunday at Turnberry, Cink had never won outside US soil with the sole exception of two wins in the Mexican Open. He has won 9 times in all on both the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour, with his maiden win coming in his rookie season when he won the Greater Hartford Open.As defending champion the following year he lost out to Olin Brown in a playoff which also involved Larry Mize at the first extra hole.
However, despite a string of consistent performances, Cink was winless until 1999 when he took the Mexican Open for a second time, while in 2000 he won the MCI Classic; a tournament he would win again in 2004 in a playoff with Tom Lehman. It was also his first tour win since 2000, but he doubled his yearly haul with victory in the WGC-NEC Invitational that same year.
After his win, Cink again became winless despite performing well in the majority of the tournaments he contested, losing a playoff against Tiger Woods for a second NEC Invitational crown in 2006. Cink would lose again to Woods in the Accenture World Matchplay in 2008, succumbing to a crushing 8&7 loss.
Cink’s next taste of victory came in 2008 when he captured the Travelers Championship; a victory which lifted him to sixth place in the world rankings but he remained winless once again until Sunday at Turnberry when he defeated 59-year old Tom Watson over a four-hole playoff to decide the British Open title.
As a result of his modest win record, Cink has been often been considered by many critics to be something of a ‘choker’ – unable to maintain his game under pressure after putting himself in a position to win. However, with the Open now under his belt, Cink will undoubtedly have a belief instilled in him that he can compete and contest at the highest level in the same way that Greg Norman’s Open victory catapulted the Australian to further tournament and major success.
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