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Stephen Gallacher: Stewart Cink’s golfing renaissance has provided plenty of inspiration

Stewart Cink holds the championship trophy after winning the final round of the RBC Heritage.
Stewart Cink holds the championship trophy after winning the final round of the RBC Heritage.

I have been hugely impressed and inspired by Stewart Cink after his second victory of the PGA Tour’s season.

The 47-year-old followed up his Safeway Open success in September with a dominant display at the RBC Heritage.

He won by four strokes on Sunday to claim his second win in only 15 events.

The victory has taken him inside the world’s top 50 and he is sitting third in the FedEx Cup standings.

His win on Sunday wasn’t a massive shock to me because he played brilliantly at The Masters and finished tied 12th alongside Robert MacIntyre to earn an invite back next year.

He looked very cool and calm as he closed out the victory but he is an Open champion so we should expect that level of confidence.

He was relentless and he was never really in any trouble over the weekend. It didn’t look at any stage like the chasing pack would get an opportunity to pounce and close the gap.

He did a lot of the hard work over the first two days with successive rounds of 63 which set a halfway record at Harbour Town of 16 under.

It beat the previous record shared by Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus by three shots.

He’s the perfect inspiration for me because he is a year older than me and we both have our sons caddying for us.

I read that he is the only the fifth player to win twice on tour in the same season at the age of 47 or older. I certainly wouldn’t mind trying to join that list next year.

His victory has led to some people suggesting he could make the American Ryder Cup team this year.

He is 24th in the Ryder Cup standings but he is definitely making a case for his inclusion.

I know he has been quick to play down his chances but if he can chalk up another win then it will be hard to leave him out.

He has won twice and performed well at Augusta so he is clearly a man in form.

He needs another strong performance in one of the majors or at the WGC in August to get in the frame.

Stewart Cink won The Open at Turnberrry in 2009.

Raymond Floyd was the oldest Ryder Cup player when he represented the United States at 51 years and 20 days in 1993 but it would be an amazing achievement if Cink, who turns 48 in May, makes the team.

While Cink’s victory at the RBC Heritage turned into a procession, the Austrian Open produced a far more dramatic climax.

The American John Catlin pipped Max Kieffer at the fifth extra play-off hole at Diamond Country Club to claim his third European Tour win.

The 30-year-old is now targeting a place in the top 50 in the world but admitted he was close to giving up the game four years ago.

He was on his way home from the Indonesian Open when he had shot a closing round of 77 to finish bottom of the pack after scraping through the cut.

It was only the second cut he had made in four-and-a-half months and he said it was taking its toll mentally.

But he made the decision to keep going and won a tournament on the Asian Development Tour the following week and it has been onwards and upwards from there.

It just shows what can happen if you persevere. Sport is brilliant for that.

I always find it heart-warming to hear about sportsmen and women who have been to the bottom and worked their way back from it.

We all go through tough spells, especially in an individual sport such as golf where the onus is on you to go out and perform.

He is a great example for players who are going through a tough spell because he has put in the work and managed to turn it around.

Not such testing times

It was interesting to read that the PGA Tour has changed its Covid-19 protocols for players who have been vaccinated.

Players who have been vaccinated will no longer have to participate in routine testing.

Vaccinated players will also be able to gather in small groups but the use of face coverings and social distancing will still be required.

I know from talking to Robert Macintyre and his manager Iain Stoddart following their recent trip across the Atlantic that it is a lot easier to maintain the bubble on the PGA Tour because the events are in the United States and you aren’t travelling from country to country like we do on the European Tour.

It is to be welcomed as it is a step back towards normality.

I have had my first injection and the planned easing of restrictions provides plenty of optimism for the future.

Hopefully the numbers of cases keeps dropping and it won’t be too long before we are back playing events in front of crowds.

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