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June 13, 2023

Cink hopes to make U.S. Open title run at 50

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Stewart Cink named Ryder Cup vice captain

Five others have ties to Alabama

Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship when he was 51 years old.

Stewart Cink doesn’t see any reason that he can’t win the U.S. Open at 50.

“Maybe. I don’t see why not,” he said last week after qualifying for the U.S. Open in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s all about keeping my wits. That is the toughest part about playing the toughest courses like that. Keeping it together.”

How to watch

the 2023 U.S. Open

NBC, Peacock and the USGA will carry the U.S. Open from Los Angeles Country Club

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Cink, who grew up in Florence and was tutored by local professional Chris Burns, is teeing it up in the U.S. Open for the 23rd time. He’s made the cut 16 times and his best finish was third in 2001.

Cink will be the third-oldest player in the field – Mickelson is the oldest and Padraig Harrington is just a little older. But Cink has maintained his fitness and is hitting the ball as far as ever, so it’s just a matter of having one of those weeks where everything comes together.

Five other players in the U.S. Open field have ties to Alabama.

Justin Thomas from the University of Alabama is among the favorites to win. Amateurs Gordon Sargent (Mountain Brook, Vanderbilt) and Nick Dunlap (Madison, Alabama) and Brendan Valdes (Auburn) made it through qualifying, along with former Auburn University player Jacob Solomon.

Cink made it through a strong field in Columbus, which has been his sweet spot when he had to qualify. In six previous attempts there, he made it through four times – each on the same set of courses. It’s like he has come full circle in his career.

Stewart Cink: the U.S. Open is about survival

Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink has played in the U.S. Open 22 times and made 16 cuts. (Photo: PGA Tour)

“I qualified on those same two courses when I was 23,” he joked. “I’ve gotten through there four times, so I have a pretty good stretch going there. I wish they would turn it into a PGA Tour event, but I don’t see it happening.”

Cink said the U.S. Open is about survival.

“It’s just a contest of who can keep their stuff together the longest and get in their own way the least when you play the courses that are set up to the very edge of fairness like the U.S. Open typically is, like The Memorial a couple weeks ago,” he said. “That’s the contest – it’s hard to remember that in the present when you are out there and your ball is bouncing all over the place. It feels impossible – you just have to remember to stay in grinding mentality.”

Before this week, Cink had played only one round at Los Angeles Country Club about seven or eight years ago. He said he remembers a little bit about the course, but expected to see a different setup.

“I played with a member and I remember it was all Bermuda [grass] with bent greens,” he said. “It was in the winter, so it’s going to be different.”

His game has been trending upward

After missing six straight cuts, Cink’s game has been trending upward with three straight made cuts on the PGA Tour and a third-place finish in his PGA Tour Champions in his last four starts.

Wife Lisa will again caddie for him. He said having a familiar face alongside gives him a level of comfort. His previous two wins came with son Reagan on the bag.

“I had a pretty rough stretch – looking back it was when Reagan stopped caddying for me. I think I was affected by that a little more than I thought I was being affected by it. Lately, Lisa has been caddying for me and it’s been a lot of fun. She knows me so well; she doesn’t know golf as well but she knows the place I need to be in to be at my best. She’s going to keep doing it for a little bit longer … maybe a lot longer, we just don’t know.”

Cink goes off at 10:35 a.m. CDT and is playing with Martin Kaymer and Michael Thorbjornson.

Thomas is making his ninth open start and has made the cut six times. Dunlap is making his second Open start, while the rest of the Alabama contingent are making their U.S. Open debuts.

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featued image courtesy of the PGA Tour

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