Stewart Cink – photo PGA of Australia

Stewart Cink is playing in this week’s Australian PGA Championship and despite the fact he is an Open Champion, a six time PGA Tour winner on the PGA Tour and an earner of over US$38 million he will likely escape much of the attention this week unless of course he gets into contention.

The 46 year old Cink is here after a three-day break in Queenstown in New Zealand to recharge the batteries and is excited to be back in Australia to play for the first time since 2003 when he played at the Australian PGA Championship at Hyatt Regency Coolum.

“I like playing around the world everywhere,” said Cink in his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday. “You can look at my calendar, I’ve played in France on the European Tour this year not that long ago.  So I like to go around and we just wanted to include the PGA Tour Australia on our calendar.”

“My wife has never been anywhere ‘Down Under’ before so we’ve been trying to put this on the calendar for a little while now.  We almost made it last year, but we had to back out at the last second. So this year we added New Zealand, a little holiday before we came here.”

Despite not winning anywhere in nearly ten years, Cink is not here just to make up the numbers and feels his game is in the sort of shape it needs to be in to play well at RACV Royal Pines.

“I feel like I’m playing as well as I’ve played in my whole career.  And as I get older now, I’m 46, my perspective and my expectations probably are changing a little bit, but I feel like if you break down the way ‑‑ if you break down golf into the categories, you know, the short game and all that, I think that I’m playing better golf now than I’ve played anytime in my career.

“I had some really good long runs where I’ve had really good finishes and a lot of wins on the U.S. Tour. The game of golf is a lot deeper now than it used to be, but I think I have what it takes to compete. And I’ve had some brushes with really good success over the last couple years at times.

“I’ve had some down moments, but I think as you age you can still reach the highest ‑‑ you can reach the highest level of form, but you might not be able to stay there as often.  So you have to be able to expect a few little troughs along with the peaks.”

His wife Lisa has battled cancer in recent years and while not yet completely free of the disease she is doing well enough to make the trip down to Australasia. Cink says her battle with illness has provided a much better perspective for him in how he faces life.

“Actually, my wife going through ‑‑ well, she’s still going through it, she’s not out of the woods, but she’s doing great.  She’s really had a tremendous response and she’s really doing fantastic.

“But watching her dig in and fighting with everything she had through the time of her diagnosis and her chemotherapy in 2016, it really caused me to sort of turn the mirror around and look at myself and say, well, if she’s fighting like this, what am I not doing?  I’m not fighting for my life necessarily, but I’ve got something pretty important to me and our family to fight for.

“And it did, it opened my eyes a little bit and I dug around in some corners that maybe I hadn’t dug around in for a few years and it gave me a new sense of intensity and intention when I was out there practicing every day and going through all the off‑the‑course things I need to do.

“You know, the result was it showed up in better scores and it gave me sort of this new confidence that I think I can compete and I can carry this all the way past my 50th birthday and who knows what happens after that.”

Cink’s attitude to travel and seeing new places became even more apparent when discussing the possibility of playing the European Tour should, by chance, he win this week. Being a European Tour event, a win here would provide him European Tour status and it is something he likes the thought of.

“It’s absolutely an option.  I haven’t filled out the paperwork yet, but I do plan to initiate the affiliate thing.  I’m just learning about all that.

“But yeah, I like playing around the world and I’ve enjoyed playing in the European Tour events, the odd one here and there where I’ll turn up and I’ll get a few slanted looks from players, like what are you doing here?  That’s fine, I like that.

“But my wife and I love traveling and we’re at a stage where our kids are all in university or beyond, out of the house and it’s just the two of us.  She comes everywhere I go and it’s fun for us to see other places besides the regular stops on the U.S. Tour that I’ve seen now for 23 years.

Ten years ago Cink recorded his greatest moment in golf when winning the Open Championship. It should have been heralded as a great victory, which it was, but that he defeated 59 year old people’s favourite, Tom Watson, in a playoff to do so resembled shooting Bambi in some people’s eyes.

Cink though fondly remembers the graciousness of Watson during the playoff and in the aftermath.

“Throughout the whole thing he was just perfectly gracious, just like you would expect any, you know, highly regarded champion to be. He couldn’t have been any nicer, and he was just as respectful of me as the winner as I would have been of him as the winner.

“You know, I felt like when Tom finished the regulation, making bogey on that hole, that I just had an opportunity because I felt like his energy just took a little step down, and it’s so important to have the energy in that situation.

“I felt like I had it because I finished strong with a birdie on the 72nd, so I felt super confident.  I felt like there was no way I was going to lose that.

“I played really well in the playoff.  I probably played better in the playoff than I played at any point during the entire week.  I played great, didn’t really miss a shot.

“But the memories, it’s been 10 years, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I still have plenty of little spots here and there, like tapping in or the first shot in the playoff, watching Tom hit his driver and being like whoa, he is not going away. So the memories, even though they’re 10 years old, they’re still very fresh.”

Stewart Cink is one of those golfers who, despite his significant success, escapes a lot of attention but for those assembled for his press conference yesterday he left all with a warm fuzzy feeling about his love of the game, his family and life.