Bello, Cink, Crane share St. Jude lead through 54

By Associated PressJune 10, 2017, 10:39 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Stewart Cink felt the familiar emotions and butterflies and savored every minute of it on Saturday.

He had some great moments and tough ones at TPC Southwind, making five birdies and four bogeys on the way to a 1-under 69. Now he's in a three-way tie with Rafa Cabrera Bello and Ben Crane for the lead at the St. Jude Classic after three rounds.

Win or lose on Sunday, the 44-year-old Cink is relishing his status as a contender, especially after all the personal and professional adversity he and his family have been through over the past few years.

''It's a moment you don't really get to experience that often, even if you've played on the Tour for 21 years,'' Cink said. ''This may only happen a handful of times. Maybe a few more. So it's a really sweet feeling.''

Cink has gradually improved his game since missing several weeks last year to help care for his wife Lisa, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. He qualified for the U.S. Open on Monday in Ohio and has now had three solid rounds at the par-70 TPC Southwind course to be in the hunt for his first victory since winning the 2009 British Open.

Cink said Lisa is at the course this weekend and her health is good.

The six-time PGA Tour winner wasn't very competitive from 2014 to 2016, with just one top 10 finish during those three years. But he's enjoyed quite the resurgence this season, with two top 10s and eight top 25s in 18 events.

Now he's got a real chance to add his seventh PGA victory.

''I'm probably not supposed to be doing this,'' Cink said. ''But I don't really care about that. My golf ball doesn't know how old I am.''

Cabrera Bello shot a 65 and Crane - who won the St. Jude Classic in 2014 - shot a 68 to join Cink at 9-under 201 for the tournament.

Cabrera Bello, a 33-year-old from Spain, has four international victories, but has never won on the PGA Tour. He's 30th in the World Golf Ranking and chipped in on back-to-back holes on the front nine to jumpstart his round.

''It got me laughing because I don't know if I've ever done that before,'' Cabrera Bello said. ''So obviously very pleased. It took away a little bit of pressure, just brought the smile to my face.''

Crane is one of Cink's good friends on the tour and said it's been rewarding to watch Cink overcome so much adversity. The two played in the same group on Saturday.

''The past year for Stewart has been something that you wouldn't wish any couple to go through,'' Crane said. ''But we've watched Stewart and Lisa get closer to each other, get closer to God and be a light out here on the PGA Tour in the midst of these trials.''

Cink had a good start on Saturday, with birdies on three of his first five holes. He opened up a three shot lead at 11-under after a seven-foot birdie putt on No. 5, but dropped back to the field after three bogeys on the back nine.

Luke List and Chad Campbell both shot a 66 and are one stroke behind the leaders. List made two eagles on the back nine to vault into contention.

Campbell, who recently turned 43, hasn't won a tournament since the 2007 Viking Classic. He started Saturday five shots back of the leaders, but charged up the leaderboard with five birdies and only one bogey.

Chez Reavie, Charl Schwartzel and Sebastian Munoz started the third round with a one shot lead over Cink, but all of them struggled. Reavie is still in contention after shooting a 72 and is tied with Matt Jones and Kevin Chappell at 7-under, two shots behind the leaders.

Schwartzel shot a 74 and Munoz a 75.

Getty Images

Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

Getty Images

Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

<
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”