RBC Heritage Preview, Picks & Analysis
STEWART CINK rolled back the years at Hilton Head 12 months ago when he won the RBC Heritage with his son Reagan on the bag.
An emotional Cink hugged Reagan after he closed out a four-shot victory at Harbour Town with a stress-free par on the lighthouse-framed 18th hole. Wife Lisa, their other son, Connor, and his fiancee, Jess Baker, were in the gallery cheering Cink's second win of the season.
“To have a posse like that waiting at the end to celebrate with,” Cink said, “it's just an experience you don't get to have in your life that often.”
Cink shot a 70 to cap off a dominant, record-breaking week at an age - 47 - when many players are looking ahead to the PGA Tour Champions.
Instead, it was Cink finishing four better than Emiliano Grillo and Harold Varner III. Grillo shot a 68 while Varner fired a 66.
The 30-year-old Varner took found plenty of encouragement in the man who beat him. “He's old and he's kicking everyone's butt,” Varner said. “It inspires me. It inspires me to know that I can play golf for a long time.”
The Cinks had their arms around each other to celebrate.
“I don't even know if I have the words,” Cink said.
He ended an 11-year winless drought in the season's first tournament, the Safeway Open back in September 2020.
That one came out of nowhere. But Cink backed it up with four more top-20 finishes, including a tie for 12th at The Masters. He won $1.278 million, nearly as much as the $1.404 million for his two previous victories at Harbour Town combined.
Cink became the fourth player to win twice in the same PGA Tour season after turning 47. Sam Snead, Julius Boros and Kenny Perry, who accomplished it twice, are the others.
Cink put on show for the ages by shooting 16-under 126 in the first two rounds - shattering the lowest 36-hole score at Harbour Town of 13-under 129 shared by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson. Cink added a 69 on the Saturday to reach 18 under, two better than Justin Leonard's 54-hole score in 2002.
Cink carried a five-shot lead into the final round and dared all chasers to come get him. Nobody made a run at Cink, who led by at least three shots throughout.
Cink anticipated a dogfight. Instead, he said he fought the course, rather than the field, for most of the day. After his strong play at Augusta National, he was full of confidence.
“I really felt I had the kind of stuff that was going to be very hard to beat,” he said.
He was downright impossible to chase down after his blazing hot start on the Thursday and Friday.
“What's so amazing is this kind of rebirth that Stewart is experiencing at such an older age,” Lisa Cink said. “I'm just in awe of how well he's playing at this time in his career.”
Cink will be back to defend his title this week, where he will be joined by Patrick Cantlay, Takumi Kanaya, Kevin Kisner, Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner III as well as past champions Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker.
Other notable commitments include Abraham Ancer, Daniel Berger, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Shane Lowry, Collin Morikawa, Cameron Smith and Justin Thomas.
Cantlay is currently sixth in the world rankings. He has finished in the top 10 in three of his previous four starts at Harbour Town. Cantlay has six wins on the PGA Tour including four in 2021, earning him the FedExCup title and the Jack Nicklaus Award as PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Kevin Kisner has finished in the top 10 at Harbour Town twice in his previous nine starts. The Aiken, South Carolina native graduated from the University of Georgia and has four victories on the PGA Tour including last season’s Wyndham Championship, where he won with a birdie at he second playoff hole in a six-man playoff.
Kanaya is a player to keep an eye on. The 23-year-old had a successful amateur career and was ranked number one in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 55 weeks. The Japanese golfer turned professional in November 2020 and has carded three wins on the Japan Golf Tour and finished seventh at last season’s ZOZO Championship. He will be making his first start at the RBC Heritage.
It was won in 2015 by Jim Furyk, in 2016 by Branden Grace, in 2017 by Wes Bryan, in 2018 by Satoshi Kodaira, in 2019 by CT Pan, in 2020 by Webb Simpson and last year by Sewart Cink.
Harbour Town is a par 71 that measures just 7,170 yards. It features small greens and narrow fairways and demands accuracy from the tee and excellent iron play.
If he is in form, this is a tournament and a course that should be made for Collin Morikawa, widely regarded as being the best iron player on the PGA Tour. Matthew Fitzpatrick should also thrive here and is making steady progress in the USA. He finished in a tie for fifth place at the Valspar and has achieved five top-12 finishes this year. A victory cannot be far away for the Englishman.
Collin Morikawa. Course is made for him
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Should thrive here
Tommy Fleetwood. Will do well if he keeps it on the short stuff
Five to Follow:
Collin Morikawa. Brilliant iron player
Matthew Fitzpatrick.Fabulous short game
Tommy Fleetwood. Too good to keep struggling
Abraham Ancer. Accuracy could be rewarded
Cameron Smith. In wonderful form
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Brandt Snedeker. Showing some signs of life again
Matt Kuchar. Still smarting from missing out on Augusta
Harold Varner III. Has the game to win here
Rickie Fowler. In desperate need of a big week
Stewart Cink. Don’t be surprised to see him make a decent defence
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)