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Stewart Cink, 50, accelerates into weekend at Sony Open in Hawaii

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Eight-time TOUR winner has unfinished business before turning to PGA TOUR Champions full-time

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    HONOLULU – Stewart Cink has surveyed PGA TOUR Champions pros about when to commit a full-time crossover to the 50-and-over circuit, and he receives a consistent response.

    Not that he gathers much specific insight.

    “Most everybody I talked to just said, ‘You’ll know,’” Cink said. “They didn’t say how. They didn’t even say how they knew. They just said, ‘You’ll know.’”

    Right now, Cink knows that he has a chance at his ninth PGA TOUR title.

    Cink, 50, opened the Sony Open in Hawaii in rounds of 67-65, one back of leader Carl Yuan through the late-early wave at Waialae Country Club. Cink stayed steady in gnarly conditions Thursday afternoon – steady rain and stiff winds – and pounced with a bogey-free, 5-under 65 on Friday morning, positioning himself for a realistic chance at his ninth TOUR title this weekend.

    Unlike most of his TOUR peers, Cink is staying in Hawaii for next week’s PGA TOUR Champions season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. Cink played four Champions Tour events last season (in addition to 27 TOUR starts) and might play a healthy number this season. His gathered advice has also included picking one Tour and sticking with it, but he plans to take the opposite approach.

    “I’m not doing that,” Cink said. “I’m not trying to make the FedExCup or the Charles Schwab Cup my priority, to capture one of those Cups. I just want to play good golf, and I don’t care where it is.”

    This week, he’s playing good golf. Like his peers, he believes in his chances of hoisting the Sony Open title. Age is just a number, and he’s intimately familiar with Waialae’s nuances.

    This marks Cink’s 10th consecutive made cut at the Sony Open (the streak began in 2014; he didn’t play in 2020). Overall, he has 15 cuts in 20 career starts at the Sony, highlighted by a T5 in 2005. He isn’t sure if his stats would predict success at Waialae, where he first competed in 1999, but he doesn’t want to know either way, he quipped Friday. What he does know is that he likes the venue’s venerable test and the breezes that make for a smooth transition from winter-type weather back home in the Atlanta metroplex. This week he has validated that belief.

    “I like playing here because I think the course is pretty cool, and I like being in Hawaii in wintertime,” Cink said. “I just always feel good and positive about coming out here after a break, and that usually has lent to me being in a good mind frame playing here. I haven’t always played great here, but I’ve had some pretty good play over the years.

    “I just feel like I have good positivity coming here, and it has lent itself to a good attitude and patience, and those are usually good things for golf.”

    Cink was active during the TOUR’s offseason, teaming with son Reagan to play the PNC Championship in mid-December, but he also made sure to shelve the clubs for a bit after a packed fall that included two trips to Italy for the Ryder Cup (he was a vice captain) plus a mix of TOUR and Champions Tour action.

    Stewart Cink pours in birdie putt at PNC Championship

    “By the time we finished with RSM, I was pretty whipped,” Cink said. “Didn’t do much practicing after the (PNC), … Normally I would practice hard and get ready for this, but this year I didn’t. I just purposefully rested and felt like that would be a smart thing to do, to be well rested going into the year instead of grinding.”

    Cink is not currently eligible for this year’s Signature Events, having not finished inside the top 50 in last year’s FedExCup.

    “Not yet,” he said.

    His voice projected an edge when discussing this reality, conveying the intent that he has some unfinished business on TOUR. As he said, he’s not focused on the FedExCup or Charles Schwab Cup standings, per se. If he doesn’t get into Signature Events (for which he could qualify via Aon Next 10 or Aon Swing 5 categories, based on performance this season), he wants to compete and win regardless.

    Cink began his TOUR career before the ShotLink era, which has made data readily available for players and their teams. In a way, Cink opined, advanced stats have allowed younger TOUR pros to accelerate the standard learning curve. They can meticulously map out game plans based on course trends, and they can study their games week-in and week-out to optimize their practice routines.

    Even if a wily veteran’s advantages aren’t what they once were, Cink continues to find his edges. He has hit 75% of greens in regulation through two rounds at Waialae, ranking in the top quarter of the field, and he’s near the top in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and SG: Putting. He has recorded just one over-par score this week, a double bogey at the par-4 fifth on Thursday. He shrugged it off by playing his next five holes in 3-under.

    The numbers suggest that players rarely win on TOUR after turning 50; just eight players have done so. Three players though – Raymond Floyd, Craig Stadler and Fred Funk – have won on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour in the same season. With a win this weekend, Cink would become a favorite to join this list.

    He doesn’t see any reason why he can’t.

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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