By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The words were hardly what Stewart Cink wanted to hear.
He had asked the Mike Lipnick, who is the director of instruction at TPC Sugarloaf in Cink's hometown of Atlanta, to take a look at his swing. Cink wondered what was different from four or five years ago, when he made the 2009 British Open his sixth PGA TOUR victory, to that autumn day in 2012 where he was mired in triple digits in the world rankings.
"We worked for about 30 minutes and he looked at me and said, 'To be honest with you, I don't see a lot of strengths here,'" Cink recalled. "So that was kind of a little bit of a wake-up call for me because I still felt like I had some strengths, at least.
"But he said, 'I don't really see it. You're not really doing a whole lot of good stuff right now. You're not helping yourself out.'"
Cink wasn't prepared for such a blunt assessment. He appreciated Lipnick's honesty, though, and he liked the fact that the club pro didn't sugar-coat his words just because Cink, who was once a mainstay of the U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams, had been playing with the game's best for nearly two decades.
So the two decided to go back to basics. The main area of emphasis was to shore up Cink's set-up so he's rotating rather than swinging laterally. That way "I'm unlocking my potential to swing the club the right way ... and not by trying to make some motion with my upper body or arms or anything," Cink said.
Cink started playing better during the offseason and he was encouraged. But he missed the cut in Hawaii last week so Cink didn't know quite what to expect when he teed it up at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
So far, so very good. Cink will start Sunday's final round in a five-way tie for second. Granted, he's five strokes behind Scott Stallings but Cink knows progress is being made. He's staying in the moment and starting to trust himself again.
"It's a process that I'm still in sort of the very beginning stages of," Cink said. "But out here, I think that you're playing, even though one round and one shot are sometimes very important, you're still trying to play the percentages, where out of a thousand shots, you want the highest number of those to be good. And that's what I'm after.
"I'm after that overriding quality, not necessarily go out there tomorrow and shoot a 26 from the first tee box. So this is just part of the steps that I need to take to get comfortable being in contention and trusting myself and trusting my swing and what I'm doing with Mike."