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Family cancer crisis provides inspiration to major champ Cink

Stewart Cink said he won't travel to tournaments unless his wife, Lisa, is well enough to join him. She is battling Stage 4 breast cancer that was diagnosed last April. Montana Pritchard/PGA of America/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO -- Saturday was a good day for Stewart Cink, and it had little to do with score he shot at Torrey Pines to give himself an opportunity to win the Farmers Insurance Open.

The sun shined brightly, the warm temperatures were a bonus. The views of the Pacific were nice, too, and no doubt it felt good to hit some good shots and get into contention.

But all of it remains secondary to his wife, Lisa's, cancer battle, and the fact that he is even playing suggests that for the time being the fight that consumes them is at a point where they feel good about traveling the PGA Tour together.

Cink, 43, a six-time PGA Tour winner, said he does not enter tournaments unless Lisa Cink is able to join him.

"It's been kind of status quo for her for several months now, which is a good thing,'' said Cink on Saturday after shooting a 3-under-par 69 at Torrey Pines to finish 2 strokes behind third-round co-leaders Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Rodgers. "She's feeling good, she's out here walking around.

"We go back for another big checkup in a little over two weeks and that will be the next update time. But right now she's feeling well. Day-to-day, she's very grateful, just like I am, and we're doing fine.''

Cink spent more than three hours with Lisa at the University of California San Diego Hospital on Monday as she underwent treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer. Lisa Cink was diagnosed last April, and Cink immediately took time away from the tour as she began treatment that did not include surgery.

After playing one tournament which she did not attend, Cink said he would never do that again. She has passed the chemotherapy stage of her treatment and is now on to another phase that includes antibody treatments, which she can do on the road.

"I've learned so much from Lisa about how to fight and how to do what it takes that I thought I could apply some of that to golf,'' Cink said. "She's really been valiant with her struggle and her battle and I figured if she can do that much and be that disciplined, then why can't I?

"It's a little different when we're talking about cancer versus golf. And so it's had a little bit of an effect on my golf because I've been playing a little bit better and it's been more fun and it's been a different kind of fun out here for me. I would say that's been a very positive impact on my golf out here.''

Cink has needed a spark inside the ropes. Since winning The Open in 2009 in a playoff over Tom Watson at Turnberry, he has not won on the PGA Tour. Having resided inside the top 10 in the world for 40 weeks from 2004 through 2009, Cink has not been better than 140th since 2011.

Following his wife's diagnosis, Cink played 11 times the rest of 2016, missing three cuts but finding some form late in the year with three consecutive top-15 finishes, including a tie for 10th at the RSM Classic.

Cink's peers are keenly aware of the situation. Snedeker, the defending Farmers Insurance Open champion, said he saw Lisa Cink at the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks ago, and got a boost himself knowing she was able to travel and watch golf.

"Stewart's attitude and demeanor through the whole process and to see what kind of guy he is has been unbelievable,'' Snedeker said. "It kind of makes us all want to be better guys to see his attitude and the way he's handled everything, and to see him playing better and is hopefully a reflection of how Lisa's feeling, that she's doing better.''

Although he missed the cut last week at the Career Builder Challenge, Cink has been feeling better about his game.

"I'm just playing from a really good, solid sense of peace right now,'' said Cink, who played college golf at Georgia Tech and lives in the Atlanta area. "That may sound surprising because of what we've been through off the course, but our faith has been tested and has been hardened and firmed up to the point where I feel like it's with me everywhere, and that includes the golf course. It doesn't matter, the 76s or the 66s feel kind of the same and that's what I'm after.''

Cink said he is looking forward to being in contention Sunday, a place he has rarely found himself in recent years. He will play in the third-to-last group along with Harris English and Jonas Blixt.

"I don't think any guy out here is not rooting for Stewart,'' Snedeker said. "We all want to see him do well and hopefully see Lisa hug him on the 18th green when he wins again. That would be a special moment.''