With his son right beside him holding his bag and his family close behind, 47-year-old Stewart Cink strolled to the 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links on Sunday evening to complete an unthinkable run. The tartan jacket was his for the third time, and the fit never felt better.
Cink delivered a masterclass at Pete Dye’s track all week long, carding a final round of 1-under par 70 to finish at 19-under and clinch a four-shot victory over Harold Varner III and Emiliano Grillo.
“It was just a really good, solid week all the way through,” Cink said. “It was just so great to have the whole family here. It means so much to me. I did the job that I needed to do today to come away with a little bit of a cushion on the last few holes, which is such a pleasure to experience.”
The victory puts Cink in elite company, joining Hale Erwin and Davis Love III as the only golfers to win three times at Harbour Town. He’s also just the fourth player aged 47 or older to win multiple events in a PGA Tour season since 1960.
It’s been a long time coming for the Georgia native, who previously won in both 2000 and 2004 in come-from-behind fashion. This time, it was all about protecting a lead he acquired from a record-breaking first 54 holes.
The day was set up for a possible duel between the veteran and the up-and-coming 24-year-old Collin Morikawa, but it very quickly turned into an extraordinary coronation. Cink began the day with a five-shot advantage over the young star, and Morikawa put immediate pressure on with an opening-hole birdie. But the comeback bid was short-lived. Morikawa dealt himself a series of unforced errors on the crucial par-5 second and missed a 4-foot par putt to quickly wipe away his momentum. Another point-blank miss on the par-3 fourth hole set him back again, quickly dropping the Los Angeles native out of contention.
Meanwhile, Maverick McNealy surged to just four shots back of Cink with a scorching-hot five birdies on his front nine. Grillo used a 3-under stretch early on in his round to gain ground on the leader, but Cink wouldn’t budge from his perch at the top. Closing out a tournament is no easy task, and we’d seen come-from-behind winners in seven of the previous eight editions of the Heritage.
Not this year.
The now three-time tartan winner took care of business in impressive fashion. Cink’s ball-striking was outstanding all day long, and he avoided any major setbacks to keep full grasp of his commanding lead. It may have been more on the conservative side on Sunday, but it was the reward he earned for an exceptional and record-breaking first two rounds. He executed nearly flawlessly from tee to green, and continued to nail down his approach shots to set himself up with simple par opportunities.
After suffering a rare bogey blemish on the tricky par-4 12th, Cink didn’t let it swing his round in the wrong direction. Instead, it motivated him even more to finish the job. After bouncing back with three straight pars, Cink walked to the 16th tee with a three-shot lead in hand, gaining a little pressure with a late Grillo birdie. But the veteran saved the best play of his round for last. Another solid approach shot erased a wayward drive to set up a par, and a brilliant tee shot on the ensuing par-3 17th resulted in a beautiful 7-foot birdie putt. The final hole was merely a formality, as Cink polished off an incredible 72-hole 265 to win an amazing third plaid jacket.
“I fully expected a dogfight,” Cink said. “I kept saying that before the round today when I was at home. I really felt like I had the kind of stuff this week that was going to be very, very hard to beat if I just maintained my composure, and I knew that with Reagan caddying and with our belief in our game plan and the way we’re going about things, businesslike and very monotonous on the course, that it just was going to be really hard to beat Stewart Cink at this course this weekend.”
Varner and Grillo shared second place, finishing with a total of 15-under par. McNealy took fourth at -13 alongside Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick and Canadian Corey Conners, while Morikawa settled for a tie for seventh with Chris Kirk.
He may be 47 years old, but Cink is playing at a phenomenal level this season, as evidenced by a September win at the Safeway Open and capped off by a victory at Harbour Town. His secret weapon: none other than his son and caddie Reagan. The 24-year-old has poured in youthful energy to his dad, providing a simple “system” that has helped Cink play some of the best golf of his career. And with two wins already this season, the best may be yet to come.
On an April weekend in the Lowcountry, Stewart, Reagan, Connor, Lisa, and the entire Cink family shared something unforgettable. After 17 years removed from a tartan triumph, the champ did it again — with his son right by his side.
“I don’t know if I have words,” Stewart said. “It just keeps better. It doesn’t happen to many people that many times in their career, but to walk down that fairway with a big lead and see that ball come up on dry land here on the 18th fringe with Reagan on the bag, it’s almost beyond words.“
By Wes Kerr