Stewart Cink turns back clock at Valspar Championship, echoes Phil Mickelson

Is it 2004? Or 2024?

It surely feels like the former, as 2009 Open Champion Stewart Cink holds a share of the lead of the Valspar Championship through 36 holes.

Cink, who now plays on the PGA Tour Champions, turns 51 on May 21. He most recently tied for seventh at the Cologuard Classic, which Joe Durant won.

Now, Cink finds himself in the mix in Palm Harbor, Florida, where he sits atop the leaderboard at 6-under alongside Kevin Streelman, Mackenzie Hughes, Brendon Todd, and Chandler Phillips.

“It feels great. Being in contention feels the same way no matter where you are, to be honest,” Cink said after Friday’s round.

“Obviously, the field is a little different here at Valspar than it was the last time I teed it up at Cologuard in Tucson on the PGA Tour Champions.”

Stewart Cink, PGA Tour, Valspar Championship

Stewart Cink during the second round of the 2024 Valspar Championship.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The last time a player aged 50 or older held at least a share of the 36-hole lead in a PGA Tour event was in 2021, when Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen sat at 5-under par midway through the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Justin Ray of The Athletic provided that stat after Friday’s second round in Florida.

But Cink achieved another statistical anomaly on Friday.

This year’s Valspar Championship marks the 500th instance in which Cink made a cut on the PGA Tour.

“I didn’t know about that until somebody told me a little while ago, but I guess ‘milestone’ would be the appropriate language to use,” Cink said after his round.

“I’ve been playing out here a long time and I’ve had some ups and downs, but a lot of ups. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. To make 500 cuts, I think that’s pretty respectable, I guess. I know a lot of players are celebratory when they reach 500 events. So to be able to put that number on your cuts made, I’m proud of that.”

The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket should be proud of that accomplishment, but he should feel proud of how he played on Friday, too.

Valspar Championship

Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Battling harsh and windy conditions, Cink fought through the elements to shoot a 4-under 67, which tied the lowest score of the day.

Only eight players in the 148-man field signed for 67s on Friday. Forty-two players shot under par altogether.

“Hit the ball solidly, a few more fairways today, which was nice,” Cink said.

“This golf course requires it all. You have to be long and accurate off the tee, smart with your decisions coming into the greens and hit really solid approaches. Then, the short game—you have to do that everywhere. But there’s a reason that so many players rave about this course. It requires everything, and so far this week, I’ve done everything fairly well.”

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is a ball-striking course, and Cink has approached the greens better than anyone so far this week. He currently has gained more strokes approaching the green than any other player and has gained 6.950 total strokes overall, which is tied for first among the field.

Clearly, the 50-year-old can still play among the game’s best, so perhaps he will carry this momentum into Sunday and win his ninth career PGA Tour title. That would be some story.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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