HONOLULU—Eleven-plus years, or 4,073 days, to be precise. That’s how long Stewart Cink went between victories, from the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry to the Safeway Open last fall.
Now he’s looking for a second win in his last eight starts, and he’s off to a good start.
Cink shot a seven-under 63 Friday at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he shares the lead with Webb Simpson after the first two rounds at Waialae Country Club.
“Everybody out there has that in them,” Cink said, trying to explain being able to win again after more than a decade. “Sometimes the stuff comes out that you need to win or be in contention and sometimes it just kind of stays hidden. It’s hard to know exactly what it takes to unlock it. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing the right things and your results just aren’t as good. Then other times, it pops out.
“Part of my job is to figure out how that make that pop out a little more often. We made some changes that hopefully enable that to happen.”
One of the most significant of those changes was the man on Cink’s bag.
Last summer, Cink’s son Reagan told his dad that he’d like to caddie for him in a tournament. He’d been living at home during the COVID-19 pandemic after graduating from Georgia Tech to save money for his wedding. His dad suggested the Safeway Open. Cink went on to win, shooting a final-round 65 to win by two. Afterward, he credited Reagan as a calming influence.
Reagan stayed on the bag in the next start a few weeks later at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Cink shot a final-round 65 to tie for 12th.
However, the following week in Las Vegas, Cink went back to using his longtime looper, Kip Henley. But he shot a final-round 81 to finish T-64. A few weeks later, Reagan was back on the bag for the Bermuda Championship, where Cink shot a Sunday 64 to finish T-4.
That was all the 47-year-old Cink needed to see. Henley was out, and Reagan in full-time.
“It’s an intangible thing,” Cink said of his son’s influence. “He and I have a really super close relationship, he understands golf really well, and I think he doesn’t have maybe the expectation level that a lot of [veteran] caddies have out here, and it’s just the nature of being in this job a long time. I have it, too. So having him there to sort of be a little bit fresher and look at things in a little bit more of a fresh way I think is the main thing he brings to me.
“That, plus our relationship is so comfortable that I just don’t ever find myself getting too high or low around him.”
There wasn’t much to be low about on Friday. On a rare, near-windless day at Waialae, Cink made seven birdies, including a pair from outside 25 feet, and no bogeys.
“My good stuff is getting a little bit better and there’s going to be bad stuff just like everybody,” he said. “Maybe I’ll have a chance to be up there in contention a little bit more often this year.”