HONOLULU – Stewart Cink couldn’t remember a more ideal day in Hawaii, and he had a ride that matched the occasion.
Taking advantage of a twilight push in his career, Cink, 47, birdied every hole except one Friday heading for a 7 under 63 score that tied him for second, two shots behind the leader Nick Taylor (62).
Cink already won the season opener at the Safeway Open in September, his first victory since the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. He and his wife, a cancer survivor, have recovered from COVID-19. Her 23-year-old man took time off from Delta Airlines to caddy for him. It doesn’t take much to make him smile.
And then he golfed under gorgeous blue skies in a light tropical breeze with gentle waves along the edge of the Waialae Country Club.
“Today was a dream day to play here at Waialae,” he said. “There was almost no wind. There had been a little dampness on the floor since last night, and it was a day you could really sort it out. You could really hit your spots instead of having to do business as usual, which is how the wind is going to help or hurt the ball. “
He only came close to bogey once, hitting his left tee in a bunker on the 17th par-3 and exploding at 4 feet.
Webb Simpson, also tied for second, had 65 others who must have felt similar. He caught bogey on the difficult second par 4 hole – in the water off the tee Thursday, a bad chip Friday – and finished with a streak of birds. Simpson hit a 40-foot bird putt on the seventh par 3, hit it tight on the No.8 and two 18-foot putts on the ninth par 5.
They were 10 under 130 with Russell Henley, Chris Kirk and Vaughn Taylor for a wide open weekend.
Joaquin Niemann of Chile, finalist last week, had a 69 and was part of the one-shot group that included Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa. Matsuyama had a 28 of the first nine to close his round.
KJ Choi, now eligible for the PGA Tour Champions, and Daniel Berger were two strokes behind.
The weather was so good that Simpson was nervous. He was 1 under for his round in conditions where he thought the good scores would be in the 62 range. And then he made a 25 foot bird putt on the fourth par 3, closed with three consecutive birdies and felt much better.
“It’s one of those days when the winds are calm, you feel like you have to go shoot 7, 8, 9 cents, and I was in a relationship for a while there,” he says. “Really happy with my result and thought if I could do it in double digits I would be at least close to the lead by Saturday.”