by Jeff Skinner
We are introducing a new feature on Links Life Golf dedicated to those golfers that have entered the witness protection program. “ Where the Heck…” will focus on those players that had the good fortune to have some success on the big stages but have now become invisible on the course. First up: Stewart Cink
The 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry was one of the most exciting and fascinating major championships in recent years. Eight time major champion Tom Watson had recaptured the spirit of Turnberry and was walking down the final fairway with a one stroke lead. But for a hard bounce and a weak putt, Watson would have fashioned the greatest win in golf history.
Alas, Watson sputtered and Stewart Cink prevailed in a playoff and claimed his first major championship. Watson was the first to congratulate Cink and recognized his deserved win. It was Cink’s sixth PGA Tour win and his life was changed instantly, unfortunately his golf game changed also. He finished 2009 with a Presidents Cup win and some good finishes during the silly season but since then he has continued a downward spiral.
When he captured the Claret Jug he rose to ninth in the Official World Golf Rankings but his play the last three years has dropped him to 68th.
Carrying the Jug with him may have proved too burdensome as his results the past three years have been progressively declining. 2010 saw Cink tally three top tens, earn $1.5 million and finish 54th in the FedEx Cup standings. The following year he could only muster one top ten, made less than one million and fell to 82nd in FedEx Cup points. The decline continued last season with no top ten finishes at all, cashed checks worth only $477,177 and he fell out of the top 100(139) in FedEx points for the first time since the playoffs started.
At the end of 2012 Cink’s stats backed up his free fall. He was 112th in Driving Distance, 180th in Driving Accuracy, 150th in Scoring Average and a dismal 182nd in All-Around Ranking. Numbers like that get you bounced from the PGA Tour but Cink’s get out of jail free card is the exemption he got with his Open Championship.
We often see a player’s production fall off after their first major win but three consecutive years must have Cink searching for answers as to why his game could go south.
There is some good news for Stewart in 2013. After a missed cut to start his year he already matched his top ten total for the past two years combined with a T10 at The Humana Challenge. Maybe he has found the answer and he can start his climb back to golf’s elite.