Column: Fall shows winning is never as far away as it seems

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Robert Streb holds the trophy after winning a second hole playoff against Kevin Kisner at the RSM Classic golf tournament, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in St. Simons Island, Ga. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Robert Streb was too young at age 33 to have look back at his only PGA Tour victory six years ago instead of looking ahead to what might be his next one.

That wasn't the case for Stewart Cink. He was three years away from joining the 50-and-older set on the PGA Tour Champions, and 11 years removed from his last victory in 2009 at Turnberry in the British Open.

Both are part of a remarkable trend during this fall portion of the new PGA Tour season.

Cink was No. 319 in the world when he won the season opener in the Safeway Open. Streb was at No. 380 when he won last week in the RSM Classic. They are among five players in nine tournaments this season who were outside the top 300 in the world when they won. That doesn't include two majors on the fall schedule because of the pandemic.

It's a reminder that winning is never easy, and that depth of talent worldwide is not limited to the top of the ranking.

“We're all so close out here. Even the 47-year-olds can compete,” Cink said. “If you just elevate a couple of little areas in your game and just get a little bit better, then you find yourself in contention or winning. If you go the other way, you find yourself on the outside of the cut or having a bunch of 50th-place finishes. It's just that close."

Brian Gay had gone seven years since his last victory when he won the Bermuda Championship at No. 328 in the world ranking and at 48 on his birth certificate. Martin Laird was No. 351 in the world and had gone seven years without winning when he received a sponsor exemption to the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas and won in a playoff.

The other winner out of nowhere was Hudson Swafford, only three years removed from his victory and recovering from injury. He had plunged to No. 345 in the world when he won at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.