Stewart Cink takes a swing on the second tee in the final round at the Silverado North Course. Cink was the winner of Sunday’s Safeway Open PGA Golf Tournament in Napa. (AP News photo)
By Jeremy Harness
A lot has happened since Stewart Cink’s last win on the PGA Tour, which came at the Open Championship in 2009, when he upended the legendary Tom Watson.
His wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and then Stewart himself was diagnosed with skin cancer. Both, however, have since been given clean bills of health, but it took a lot of courage to get to this point.
Fast forward to this weekend, as Cink shot rounds of 65 on Saturday as well as Sunday, and he came away with the win at the Safeway Open, with his birdie at the par-5 18th being the decisive blow.
He got off to a nice start and never really turned off the momentum. He recorded back-to-back birdies at the fourth and fifth holes and the followed that up with birdies at the eighth as well as the ninth.
He added a chip-in for birdie at the par-3 11th before going birdie back-to-back at the 15th and 16th holes.
However, he did suffer a hiccup at the par-4 17th, as he could not get up and down and dropped a shot. He got that shot right back at the final hole, as he hit two good shots and wound up just past the back fringe.
He pulled out a putter and got it to about four feet and then drained the birdie putt to give himself a two-shot lead with two groups left on the course.
“Well, it has been emotional,” Cink said. “You can’t go wire to wire in the FedExCup year without winning the first one, I would like to point that out right now. In a way that was kind of a goal this week. No, it’s been an awesome time. My son Reagan caddying for me, Lisa was here. This is a really special place, I love being in Napa and I just had a really phenomenal time this week. And on top of that my golf ball was pretty agreeable most of the way, so it was a really great experience top to bottom all week.”
At that point, there were only two guys with a chance to tie Cink, Brian Stuard and Harry Higgs. Higgs was two back and needed an eagle, and his chance evaporated when his third shot landed way right of the hole.
“I would have loved to have hit a tee ball in the fairway on 18. I felt like I needed 3, especially seeing Stewart in the fairway when we got back to that tee,” Higgs said. “I can’t believe the putt on 17 didn’t go in. I was back and forth between does it straighten at the hole, does it keep breaking. I hit it exactly how I wanted to.
“All in all, super positive week obviously. Had a chance to win, great start to a new season. I felt like this was a really, really good chance, and it was nice to be in it at the end versus the last time I finished second.”
As for Stuard, who was four back when Cink sank his final putt, he needed even more. His chance fell through when his birdie attempt at the 17th burned the edge.