Some golf swings get better with age.
Just one month shy of his 48th birthday, Stewart Cink breezed to a four shot victory over Harold Varner III on Sunday at the RBC Heritage.
The 2009 Open champion spent eleven years battling with his game, only managing one top-5 at the 2018 Travelers Championship. But an increase in distance off the tee has seen him find the winner's circle twice in the last seven months (also capturing the Safeway Open in September 2020).
The increase in distance was achieved by shallowing out his angle of attack so he could hit up on the ball. The more you hit up, the higher the ball launches into the air. If the spin rate is down, the ball will carry further and your total distance will increase.
“The root factor of any stat is driving distance," said Cink in January this year. "The further you hit it, the easier golf is on every stat. If you can add five yards, you’re going to improve your strokes gained…so why wouldn’t you.”
Hard to argue considering his recent form.
In 2018, Cink was ranked 83rd in driving distance on the PGA Tour averaging 298 yards off the tee. The tweaks made to his swing has found the eight-time winner an extra nine yards, catapulting him to 26th in driving distance in 2021.
So why has it taken him so long to win again?
Cink’s swing is old school. He’s one of the few tour players that has an open clubface at the top. You can see, below, there is a cupping of the left wrist and the toe of the club points to the ground.
Most modern players play with a bowing - or closed - left wrist as it’s a more stable position to be in. It also requires less manipulation with the hands to deliver a square clubface to the ball.
The only way Cink can square up the clubface, is by rolling his wrists. This is another technique which is relatively uncommon in the modern game. Rolling the wrists is a way of forcing the clubface closed at impact, rather than releasing the club freely down the target line.
That can be a dicey move when you’re swinging the club at speed. If you’re a fraction out, the ball could go anywhere.
Cink also has a bend in the left arm, below, a telltale sign that a golfer is trying to hold the clubface off at impact. He’s open at the top, rolls the wrists at impact, and holds it off in the finish.
It takes years of practice to get that right, which Cink now has. With an increase in distance and confidence, the 'old timer' could be a serious threat for some time to come.