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AT&T CLASSIC: CINK SORTS IT OUT




Most of his hair is gone, but there's typically a smile on his face. He married his sweetheart from Georgia Tech and they are raising two well-adjusted sons. He's typically happy to sign autographs or pose for photos with someone's granny during a practice round.

On Tuesday morning he arose before dawn to speak to a crowd of nearly 400 at the Classic Breakfast, an annual event hosted by First Baptist Church Duluth. There he spoke about the importance his Christian faith plays in his life.

Had there been a little old lady waiting to cross Duluth Highway, Stewart Cink probably would have been there with an extended arm.

Cink is the PGA Tour's Everyman, with one exception: he's better than almost every man out there.

Cink gets a rare home game this week; he's one of the featured attractions in the field at the 40th AT&T Classic at TPC Sugarloaf, where he lives. He's in the midst of another typically outstanding season and must be considered one of this week's favorites.

"I feel like I've done the necessary work to be up there," Cink said. "I recommitted myself over the last six months to really not go through the motions, to really work and listen to Butch [Harmon, his coach] and be a little bit more dedicated to my workouts and be more consistent."

Cink is longer off the tee than ever, but he noticed that his short game had not kept pace. That was his focus in the offseason.

"Out here almost everybody has a little bit of weakness in their game in some area," Cink said. "It's easy to go out and work on things you feel you're great at, because it makes you feel great. My short game hasn't been as good as it should be, and I decided to really address it and improve it."

Making changes is crucial for a golfer's success, Tiger Woods says.

"Understanding how to play and obviously making changes and adapting your game to the golf course, and that's what you have to do in order to be successful on all venues," Woods said after his victory over Cink in the final of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in February.

Cink said, "That's one thing I've done this year, is drawn off past experiences, and used the steppingstone approach."

The results are evident: Cink has five top-10 finishes in 11 starts and is third in earnings with $2.379 million. He's No. 15 in the World Golf Ranking. The only thing that eats at him is the absence of victories; he has not won since 2004.

"I've had some high finishes and been pleased with my play overall," Cink said. "The one that hurt was Tampa, where I felt I could have won and totally threw it away."

Cink held the lead during the final round of the PODS Championship in Tampa but closed with a 74 that allowed Sean O'Hair to win. Cink was runner-up in the Match Play Championship. He tied for third at the Masters, his best finish at Augusta National.

He has played on three Ryder Cup and three Presidents Cup teams. The only thing missing from his resume, which will eventually define his place in the sport, is a major championship. He nearly won the 2001 U.S. Open and has nine top-20 and three top-10 finishes in his past 17 majors.

Cink also understands his ultimate happiness comes in arenas other than the golf course. He's on the road 30 weeks each year but looks at it as the chance to be home for 22 weeks, a claim few fathers can make.

"It's definitely a strain on a marriage," he said. "Being a PGA Tour player's wife is not enviable."

So when Cink isn't playing, he's learning to be a better listener to his spouse. And when he's home, he's settling into the role of "just being around."

He spent much of the offseason going to hockey games with his family; sons Connor and Reagan are both skilled players in the youth leagues. Cink estimates he's seen more than 75 hockey games in the past year.

The Cinks love the outdoors; they take vacations in the Rockies and enjoy skiing. It's not what you'd expect from a Southern boy born and raised in Alabama.

He also enjoys talking about his faith. Cink brought pal Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, to the church breakfast. They cut up a bit, told a few golf stories and expressed feelings about their Christian beliefs.

Cink talked about how he was a hothead as a kid before finding his faith in 2001 and how it changed his life.

"I didn't know about this until Sunday," said Justin Johnson, a coach at Buford High School. "I wanted to come and hear what he had to say."

CINK FACTS

Three things you may not know about Stewart Cink:

> 1. He and wife Lisa were married and had their first child while still at Georgia Tech.

> 2. He beat Tiger Woods in an exhibition match at Druid Hills Golf Club the week before the Masters in 1995.

> 3. Has used a 4-iron for each of his five competitive holes in one.

 

 

 

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