The Loop

Cink can relate to Woods' swing changes

March 17, 2011

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Stewart Cink can sympathize with Tiger Woods when it comes to the challenge of instituting swing changes with a new coach.

After eight years under the tutelage of Butch Harmon -- whose client list at one time also included Woods -- Cink began working with Dallas-based teacher Pat O'Brien late last year.

"It's not easy to make a change. Just ask the former No. 1 player in the world," Cink said Thursday after shooting an encouraging 3-under-par 68 in the opening round of the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort. "I know it's been seven months for him (Woods). It won't ever become completely natural until you really ingrain it at some point. As much golf as we've played growing up ... we're talking about thousands and thousands of rounds and practice shots and everything where the same kind of things happen. To make a change is extremely difficult."

Woods has been working with Sean Foley since last year's PGA Championship, and last week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship he posted his first top-10 finish since the 2010 U.S. Open. Foley is Woods' third teacher after Harmon and Hank Haney. Cink, a teammate of Woods on numerous Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, said Woods just needs time.

"Tiger has been so good. He's rewritten what we consider to be possible on the golf course," Cink said. "Now he appears to be struggling with his golf swing. He's hitting some shots that look funny. Not winning a whole lot or by huge margins. Everybody wants to say, well, 'he's gone.' He deserves a lot more than to be brushed away."

As for Cink, 37, a winner of six PGA Tour titles, his decision to switch had as much to do with geography as the direction his game was headed. He lives north of Atlanta, and he found it difficult to schedule instruction time with Harmon, based in Las Vegas. But Cink also felt that he'd gone as far as he could with Harmon's help. There's also the matter of the clock ticking.

"I felt like my swing had developed some habits to where I was spinning my wheels," Cink explained. "The biggest change is in the transition in my swing. I have been coming over the top and getting a little steep; it's a motor pattern that has been in existence for a long time. Sometimes I get caught in between swings.

"My confidence hasn't been that high since I've changed. But I know I'm on the right track. I'm patient. I've got some time. But I felt like, being 37, between now and 43 is the time I can do some damage. I wanted to go ahead and start with Pat and fix a few little things in my swing and in my golf game overall, and hopefully set myself up for these next six years."

-- Dave Shedloski