Former Open champion Stewart Cink rolls back the years to claim Safeway Open title
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 14/09/20 6:27am
Stewart Cink stormed to his first title since the 2009 Open Championship as the veteran landed a remarkable two-shot victory at the Safeway Open.
Cink emerged from a heavily congested leaderboard to match his third-round 65 and hold off Harry Higgs in a riveting finish to the opening tournament of the 2020/21 PGA Tour season.
The 47-year-old completed a clean sweep of birdies on the par-fives at the final hole following his only blemish of the day at the 17th, recording a winning score of 21 under and collecting his first silverware since denying Tom Watson a historic sixth Claret Jug at Turnbery over 11 years ago.
Cink was two strokes behind overnight and one of 28 players within four shots of the lead, but he made serene progress through Sunday and cruised to the turn in 32 before pitching in for his third birdie in four holes at the 11th.
The five-time Ryder Cup player missed a good chance at the next, but he holed a tricky 20-foot putt for his sixth birdie of the round at the 15th, and added another at the next to open up a two-shot lead over the chasing pack.
Cink's composure buckled on the 17th green as he raced his 45-foot birdie putt six feet past the cup and missed the return, but two lusty blows found the back fringe on the par-five last and he putted to three feet and knocked in the winning stroke with Higgs piling on the pressure.
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Higgs, who made the first albatross of the season with his last shot of the second round, looked to be too far back to challenge until he smashed a superb 237-yard second to five feet at the 16th and rammed in the putt for eagle to close within one of the leader.
But Higgs was unable to find the cup from inside 10 feet on the 17th green and, needing another eagle at the last to force extra holes, he pushed his drive too far right and into a fairway bunker which left him no chance to go for the green in two.
A par-five was enough for Higgs to finish in outright second on 19 under, matching his previous best performance on the PGA Tour at the Bermuda Championship in November last year, while Doc Redman lit up the final day after he birdied each of the final six holes to return a 10-under 62, which earned him the clubhouse lead for a lengthy period.
Redman would end up in a share of third with Chez Reavie, who covered the back nine in just 29 strokes to card a 66, with Kevin Streelman picking up three shots over the last four holes to claim a podium finish.
Brian Stuard, who shared the overnight lead with James Hahn and Cameron Percy, also birdied the last to make it a four-way tie for third, while Russell Knox was unable to mount a serious challenge after a poor run of holes on the outward half.
The Scot made a good start with an early birdie at the short second, but he bogeyed three of the next four holes and went on to fire a 70 which left him five adrift of the champion.