Cink-cess! 47-year-old Cink wins 3rd RBC Heritage title

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Stewart Cink eyes his drive off the ninth tee during the third round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Saturday, April 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — The golf was exceptional for Stewart Cink. What made his third RBC Heritage title truly special was that his family was there to experience his age-defying success.

Cink hugged son Reagan, his caddie, after he closed out his four-shot victory at Harbour Town with a stress-free par on the lighthouse-framed 18th hole. Wife Lisa, their other son, Connor, and his fiancee, Jess Baker, were in the gallery cheering Cink’s second win this season.

“To have a posse like that waiting at the end to celebrate with,” Cink said, “it’s just an experience you don’t get to have in your life that often.”

Maybe the Cink family has more such joyous moments ahead with Stewart’s resurgence on the PGA Tour.

He shot a steady, stress-free 70 to cap off a dominant, record-breaking week at an age — 47 — when many players are looking ahead to the PGA Tour Champions.

Instead, it was Cink finishing four better than Emiliano Grillo and Harold Varner III. Grillo shot a 68 while Varner, who had the highest finish of his career, fired a 66.

The 30-year-old Varner took found plenty of encouragement in the man who beat him.

“He’s old and he’s kicking everyone’s (butt),” Varner said. “Yeah, 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,” Stewart Cink said.

He won for the second time this season — only he and Bryson DeChambeau have done that. He broke an 11-year winless drought in the season’s first tournament, the Safeway Open back in September.

That one seemed to come out of nowhere. But Cink backed it up with four more top-20 finishes, including a tie for 12th last week at the Masters.

He won $1.278 million, nearly as much as the $1.404 million for his two previous victories at Harbour Town combined.

The second win comes with a major perk — Cink earned an exemption into the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. It will be the first U.S. Open since 2017 for the former British Open champion.

Cink became the fourth player to win twice in the same PGA Tour season after turning 47. Sam Snead, Julius Boros and Kenny Perry, who accomplished it twice, are the others.

Cink put on show for the ages by shooting 16-under 126 in the first two rounds — shattering the lowest 36-hole score at Harbour Town of 13-under 129 shared by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson. Cink added a 69 on Saturday to reach 18 under, two better than Justin Leonard’s 54-hole score in 2002.

Cink carried a five-shot lead into the final round and dared all chasers to come get him. Nobody made a run at Cink, who led by at least three shots throughout.

PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, paired with Cink, opened with a birdie. But bogeys on the second and fourth holes took Morikawa out of the mix.

Maverick McNealy had five birdies on the front nine to climb to 14-under, four back of Cink, in the middle of the round. Consecutive bogeys on the 11th and 12th ended McNealy’s surge.

Grillo and Varner came the closest at 15-under and were just three back until Cink’s final birdie at the par-3 17th, which made it all but certain he would add another plaid winner’s jacket to the ones he won in 2000 and 2004.

Cink had made 17 birdies and two eagles the first three rounds. He had only two birdies Sunday, but that was more than enough to claim his eighth career victory.

Cink anticipated a dogfight. Instead, he said he fought the course, rather than the field, for most of the day. After his strong play at Augusta National, he was full of confidence.

“I really felt I had the kind of stuff that was going to be very hard to beat,” he said.

He was downright impossible to chase down after his blazing hot start on Thursday and Friday.

“What’s so amazing is this kind of rebirth that Stewart is experiencing at such an older age,” Lisa Cink said. “I’m just in awe of how well he’s playing at this time in his career.”

McNealy (67), Corey Conners (68) and Matt Fitzpatrick (68) tied for fourth at 13-under. Morikawa slipped to seventh after a 72, tied with Chris Kirk (67) at 12-under.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson closed with his best round of the tournament at 66 to finish tied for 13th at 10-under. Johnson was the November Masters champ, yet missed the cut there last week and was never in contention at Harbour Town.

“I just feel like I made way too many mistakes,” he said. “Around here, you make mistakes, they penalize you pretty big.”

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