Two former Tech stars find happiness down the RSM leaderboard

The winner of the RSM Classic remained a mystery Sunday, daylight giving out as the Gordian Knot of a five-way playoff remained tangled.

But down in sixth place, where four others shared a crowded room at 14 under par, there was some very concrete satisfaction. Turns out that winning a tournament isn’t everything (and, in fact, it wasn’t anything on this Sunday).

Just finishing well, that we can talk about with some certainty.

Ollie Schniederjans, the former Harrison High and Georgia Tech player, once No. 1 in the world as an amateur but who had to do his time in golf’s bushes like everyone else, just had his most satisfying week as a PGA Tour pro. He has played in 15 events on Tour since being allowed to actually pocket winnings. And this was the first of those weeks in which he was able to string together four sub-par rounds (66-68-66-68).

“This is tons of pressure taken off me,” Schniederjans said. “I feel a huge weight is off my shoulders.

“It’s amazing how one tournament can turn around the whole fall.” Just as it is amazing how his chip-in from 68 feet on No. 16 did wonders for his outlook.

A quick recap: Turning pro after a big showing in the 2015 British Open (T-12), Schniederjans played very occasionally on the PGA Tour on sponsors’ exemptions. With a successful season in 2016 — including one victory — he qualified for the grown-up Tour by finishing sixth on the 2016 minor league money list.

Schniederjans then hit the PGA Tour fall swing hard, playing in three events the past month.

The fall swing hit back harder. Schniederjans missed the cut in all three of those tournaments prior to this week, shooting a combined 20 over in six rounds.

“It’s never fun to not be competing. This is what I love to do getting to play on the weekends. I was thrilled to get out here and get back in the mix this week,” he said.

The reason for the turnaround this week: “I hit the fairways and I putted good,” he said most succinctly.

As far as what was swirling around in his noggin after the difficult beginning to the wrap-around 2016-17 season, Schniederjans was a bit more expansive, in a Zen-of-golf kind of way. “It was a big tournament for me and I did put a lot of pressure on myself. But I went back to doing what I know works. I played my game and focused on doing things my way. I focused on myself and I played great,” he said.

The payoff for the turnaround this week: A direct deposit of $194,250 into his account, his biggest tournament payday yet. An improved standing when it comes to making future tournament fields, based on better performance. And an asterisk that goes with finishing low Yellow Jacket.

There were 10 of them shoehorned into this field, seven of them making the cut. And No. 2 on that list had himself a rewarding tournament as well.

As wife Lisa’s battle with breast cancer has entered a new, slightly less debilitating phase, Duluth’s Stewart Cink has found himself playing a little more on Tour. Coming off the course Sunday, having finished T-10 at 13 under, he sounded quite heartened.

“Mentally I think I was a lot stronger on the golf course than I’ve been in a long time,” he said. “I put myself in the mix and proved to myself that I belong here in the mix again. It was fun.”

Had it not been for a 3-putt on No. 16 and a wayward iron to the par 3 17th, Cink might have had even more fun. Still, the RSM represented only the second top 10 finish for Cink since 2014. His 2009 British Open victory was the last of his six career wins.

Three days after receiving an encouraging medical report on Lisa, Cink shot a career-low 62. That staked him to a contending position until the closing holes Sunday.

The 43-year-old Cink was further gladdened by the 23-year-old Schniederjans’ performance here. “I’m happy for him because he has been on kind of a rough ride the last three tournaments, so this is good for him. I’m always happy to see my fellow Yellow Jackets do well,” he said.

“I like Ollie and he has so much potential. Maybe he puts more pressure on himself than anybody else does. It’s hard to come out from college with those kind of expectations and hit the ground running without missing a beat. He’ll be OK in the long run.”

Four players — Camilo Villegas, Henrik Norlander, Blayne Barber and Mackenzie Hughes — will return to the Sea Island Seaside Course on Monday morning to determine a RSM winner. (Playoff contender Billy Horschel was eliminated on Sunday’s first extra hole.) Everyone else is free to enjoy a long holiday until the PGA Tour schedule picks up again in 2017.

Cink would vote to keep playing, that very rare pro who would lobby for even more events. “I wish we had more tournaments because I like the way I’m playing now and I wish I had a chance to get right back on the golf course again soon,” he said.

Schniederjans, who now headquarters in the offseason in Jupiter, Fla., is quite content to head South and recharge.

“I’m ready for some time off. I’ve learned a lot and I think I can take a little break and come back fresh. I think 2017 is going to be an amazing year,” he said.