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Cink rising from post-British title hole at Quail Hollow

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Seen much of Stewart Cink lately?

If so, it was between golf shots on network TV, where he has been appearing lately in a humorous commercial for a men's skin lotion with his wife, Lisa, where she teases him about being a baldie.

Lately, the gleam off the forever-friendly Cink's shaved dome has been the shiniest part of his game, which has mostly gone backward since his unforgettable summer in the U.K. two years ago.

Winning the 2009 British Open was expected to be a springboard for Cink, long a consistent, steady wage earner on the PGA Tour and a longtime Ryder Cup player. Instead, it's like he dived into an empty swimming pool.

More from Quail Hollow

He hasn't had a top-10 finish in 11 months, he split with swing coach Butch Harmon and hired a new instructor, tore up his swing and consequently hasn't made much of a ripple. Which is why, even after a scrappy Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship, Cink was grinning like he was back at Turnberry, winning the British Open.

"It's nice to be relevant," Cink laughed.

Finally showing signs of progress in his makeover, Cink enters the final round tied for third with Lucas Glover at 12 under par, three strokes behind 54-hole leader Jonathan Byrd. Frankly, it's been a long time coming -- and a long way too.

Cink hasn't truly contended on a Sunday since he outdueled ageless Tom Watson for the British Open title 22 months ago. In fact, over 15 lean months, he has just one top-10 finish in his past 28 starts.

Invincibility begat invisibility, and he knows it better than anyone. Cink provides a constant stream of money quotes, as we scribe types say, but it's hard to justify filling a notebook with one-liners from a guy finishing 35th every week. There are few brighter bulbs in the glibness department, so it's been everybody's loss as Cink has labored to stay among the elite.

After he shot a brilliant 7-under 65 in the second round, Cink was standing outside the recorder's office and spotted a reporter hovering nearby. It had been awhile.

"So it's what have you done for me lately?" he cracked.

Stewart Cink has fallen to 69th in the world after reaching fifth a few years ago. (Getty Images)  
Stewart Cink has fallen to 69th in the world after reaching fifth a few years ago. (Getty Images)  
Pretty much. And what he has done wouldn't get him in a World Golf Championships event, since he's fallen from a career-high fifth in the world ranking in mid-2008 to 69th entering this week. The conjugation: Cink, sank, sunk.

No matter what happens Sunday, it's been a welcome week of progress on multiple fronts. In seven previous starts at Quail Hollow Club, Cink had posted a score in the 60s a total of three times. He's done it in back-to-back days this week after his scrambling 68 on Saturday.

Not long ago, Cink would have shot 74 given the way he sprayed it around on Saturday, but instead, he only has two guys ahead of him on the leaderboard at one of the best tournaments on tour. After finishing, he headed straight to the range to sand down some rough spots.

"Wasn't real pretty," said his caddie, Frank Williams.

Comparatively, it was a thing of beauty. He is seeking to piece together three straight rounds in the 60s for the first time since the season finale last year at Disney World, one of the easiest venues on the tour schedule.

The course isn't the only place where Cink, if not his fans, are assembling the pieces to a puzzle. The veteran had a couple of clubhouse tickets for Saturday's round that he wasn't using and put them in his pocket when he headed home Friday night. Rather than just give them away, he started a scavenger hunt on his Twitter account, which has over one million followers, testament to his wit and self-effacing popularity.

He placed the ducats on the top of an ATM at a local Wachovia bank, then tweeted hints to his followers to lead them to the pot of ticket gold. It got such a positive response, he plans to do it again.

"I think next time I'm going to do it from where I can see it from my hotel and watch for the swarm," he laughed.

Given the way he's played of late, it's nice to have the PGA Tour swarm mostly behind him headed into his most meaningful Sunday in nearly a year.

"Just being 12 under par is a good position," he said, "especially from where I have been lately."

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