HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC – The golf was extraordinary for Stewart Cink. What made his third RBC Heritage title really special was that his family was there to see his age-old success.
Cink hugged son Reagan, his caddy, after finishing his four-shot win in Harbor Town with a stress-free par on the 18th hole framed by the lighthouse. Mrs. Lisa, her other son Connor and his fiancée Jess Baker were in the gallery cheering Cink’s second win of the season.
“To make such a group wait at the end to celebrate,” said Cink, “it’s just an experience that you don’t have that often in your life.”
Perhaps with Stewart’s resurgence on the PGA Tour, the Cink family has even more joyful moments ahead of them.
He shot a steady, stress-free 70 to end a dominant, record breaking week at the age of 47 with many players looking to the PGA Tour Champions.
Instead, Cink was four times better than Emiliano Grillo and Harold Varner III. Grillo shot a 68 while Varner, who had the highest score of his career, shot a 66.
30-year-old Varner found a lot of encouragement in the man who hit him.
“He’s old and kicks everyone (bum),” said Varner. “Yes, it inspires me. It inspires me to know that I can play golf for a long time.”
The Cinks had their arms around each other to celebrate.
“I don’t even know if I have the words,” said Stewart Cink.
He won for the second time this season – only he and Bryson DeChambeau have. At the first tournament of the season, the Safeway Open in September, he broke an eleven-year drought without a win.
This seemed to come out of nowhere. But Cink backed it up with four more top 20 finishes, including a tie for 12th place at the Masters last week.
He won $ 1.278 million, almost the same as the $ 1.404 million for his two previous wins at Harbor Town combined.
The second win comes with a huge advantage – Cink received an exemption for the US Open at Torrey Pines in June. It is the first US Open since 2017 for the former British Open champion.
Cink became the fourth player to win twice in the same PGA Tour season after he was 47. Sam Snead, Julius Boros, and Kenny Perry, who made it twice, are the other.
Cink stood out for the ages by shooting 16 to 126 in the first two rounds – shaking the lowest 36-hole score in Harbor Town of 13 to 129 shared by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson. Cink added a 69 on Saturday to hit 18 under, two better than Justin Leonard’s 54-hole score in 2002.
Cink led to the finals with five shots and dared all pursuers to get him. No one was running towards Cink, who was shooting at least three continuous shots.
PGA championship winner Collin Morikawa, paired with Cink, opened with a birdie. But Morikawa took bogies on the second and fourth holes out of the mix.
Maverick McNealy had five birdies on the top nine to climb to 14 under four in the middle of the round, four behind Cink. Successive bogies on the 11th and 12th ended McNealy’s climb.
Grillo and Varner came closest at 15 under and were only three back until Cink’s last birdie landed on par 3 17th, which made far from certain that he would be the jackets he won in 2000 and 2004 would add another plaid winner jacket.
Cink had made 17 birdies and two eagles in the first three rounds. He only had two birdies on Sunday, but that was more than enough to take his eighth career win.
Cink expected a dogfight. Instead, he said he fought on the track rather than in the field for most of the day. After his strong game at Augusta National, he was full of confidence.
“I really felt like I had things like this that would be very hard to beat,” he said.
It was absolutely impossible to chase him after his scorching start on Thursday and Friday.
“What’s so amazing is the kind of rebirth that Stewart is experiencing at such an old age,” said Lisa Cink. “I’m just in awe of how well he’s playing at this point in his career.”
McNealy (67), Corey Conners (68) and Matt Fitzpatrick (68) finished in fourth place with 13. Morikawa slipped to seventh place after a 72, followed by Chris Kirk (67) at 12-under.
The best-placed Dustin Johnson finished his best round of the tournament with 66 and finished 13th with 10 out of 13. Johnson was the November Masters champion but missed the cut there last week and never competed in Harbor Town.
“I just feel like I’ve made way too many mistakes,” he said. “You make mistakes here, they punish you pretty big.”