Photo by Corinne Nicholson
JOHNS CREEK -- Less than a week after the PGA Championship, Stewart Cink was already sizing up next year's site of the golf's final major tournament each season.
OK, so he was actually attending the Atlanta Athletic Club's Sports Appreciation Night and Hall of Fame Induction last Tuesday. And the Duluth resident and member at TPC at Sugarloaf and Berkeley Hills Country Club is already quite familiar with AAC.
However, he was just glad to be close to home, a feeling that will only get stronger when he tees off with the rest of the field next year at the Johns Creek club's Highlands Course.
"It's great. Anytime you can play a tournament this close to home, you can stay at home and it's such an easy trip," Cink said. "And I have good memories from playing here over the years. It will be a welcome change from traveling on the road."
Cink may be looking for something different after what's been a tough 2010 season in many ways.
He has only two top-10 finishes heading into the first tournament of the FedEx Cup playoffs next week -- The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
But there have also been parts of the season Cink has very much enjoyed.
One has been the reception he's gotten from fans after winning his first major championship at the British Open at Turnberry late in the 2009 season.
"It's been a little different," Cink said. "I think the biggest difference I've noticed has been outside the ropes. The crowds have been way more supportive and they've shown more recognition of me when I'm playing the top players.
"It used to be I was hidden between Phil (Mickelson) or some of those guys. Now, I seem to be getting a lot more shouts from the crowd, which is really nice to hear."
But the best part of this season for Cink thus far may have been the PGA Championships -- specifically, the final three days.
After struggling to a 5-over par 77 in the opening round and putting himself in danger of missing the cut, he rallied for rounds of 68, 66 and 73 to finish at 4-under, good for a tie for 18th place.
"On Friday and into Saturday, I played really well -- the best I've played in a long time, and it was pretty exciting," Cink said. "Spots like that have been kind of few and far between for me this year, and I seem to have just tripped over my own two feet too many times this year.
"It's very encouraging. I keep telling myself, 'All this year, I've been waiting for a spark. ... I haven't really had a spark of confidence. Maybe this is it."
The other benefit Cink got from his strong finish at the PGA is it put him among the favorites to get one of four picks by U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin for this year's event, even though he doesn't have enough points to be an automatic selection.
"In my 14th year on tour, I've done a lot of things good and bad," Cink said. "At this point now, the majors and Ryder Cup and President's Cup teams are really what the whole year's all about. If you don't end up on one of those teams, you consider yourself to be a little underneath your goal.
"I'm very proud (to be considered one of the top candidates for a captain's choice). To me, it gives me confidence to know that (Pavin) would be considering me even though I haven't had my best year. I have a lot of experience playing in the last four Ryder Cups. So I think that's where (the talk) comes from."
While the FedEx Cup and possible Ryder Cup play is something Cink is looking forward to as summer turns to autumn, there is another sports season he is eagerly awaiting.
He will try to take time out of his schedule to watch his son, Conner, play for the football team at Greater Atlanta Christian School, though he admits there is a major adjustment for him to make because of it.
"I never played football growing up," Cink said. "Neither of my sons have played at all yet. So, it will be a whole new thing for us. ... Conner also plays golf, but I understand golf. To watch that, I understand the mistakes they make, and I see them do the same things I did when I was a kid. Football I understand from a fan perspective. But the details, I don't get. It will be a totally different thing watching as a parent.
"There will be a lot more Friday night commitments for (my wife Lisa and I). We don't want to miss out on any action."