SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Stewart Cink was in the 18th fairway Saturday morning, 222 yards from the flag with a 3-iron in his hand and needing a birdie just to make the cut at the PGA Championship.
Some eight hours later, he was tied for 16th and had an outside shot of playing his way onto the Ryder Cup team.
Yes, it was quite the turnaround.
“I just had to hit a good shot,” Cink said, and he followed that up by making about a 10-foot birdie to complete his second round of 68.
And to think that on Thursday, the former British Open champion was walking down fairways with his head down, on his way to a 77 that presumably ended his PGA Championship early. Cink is 14th in the Ryder Cup standings – the top eight qualify after Sunday – and it appeared certain that he would have to audition over the next three weeks.
“I haven’t hit too many good iron shots,” Cink said. “I’m just fighting it. But I battled hard to get back into it and make the cut.”
He had his chances to get back to the cut line on the par-5 16th until missing a 3-foot birdie putt. Cink said he was as determined to “cover up” that mistake than make birdie for the cut.
He made it on the number, then made eagle on the 16th in the third round on his way to a 66. That put him at 5-under 211 for the tournament, eight shots out of the lead and probably too far to win.
To make the Ryder Cup team, Cink would need to finish no worse than a two-way tie for fourth. He’s only five shots behind that target, depending on how it goes Sunday.
That won’t be on his mind. Cink has learned over the years that trying to play his way onto a team doesn’t lead to good golf.
“If you try to play your way onto a team or into a pick, you’re going to throw up on yourself,” he said.
CLUB PRO: It took Rob Labritz seven years to get back to the PGA Championship.
He made sure to stay as long as possible.
Labritz played bogey-free over the final 12 holes of his second round Saturday morning to become the only club professional to make the cut at Whistling Straits. The golf director at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., then held his own with 21-year-old Rickie Fowler for most of the third round.
The only sour part was the finish. Labritz took a quadruple-bogey 8 on the ninth hole, giving him a 74. He was a 2-over 218.
“I will have to take some time to compose myself and then assess what went wrong,” he said. “It was pretty rough to end that way. It was mentally a long day for me and I’m sure for a lot of people. Tomorrow, I plan to go low and will do all I can to make up for today.”
It was the first time he made the cut in three appearances at the PGA Championship.
RYDER CUP DOINGS: Padraig Harrington needed a good showing to help earn his way onto Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
He missed the cut with a double bogey on the last hole.
Luke Donald was holding down the last of four spots available through world points, then shot 77 and missed the cut. Now, Donald is in a bit of a quandary – whether to play the FedEx Cup playoffs opener in two weeks (which doesn’t count toward Europe’s standings) or go to Scotland for the last qualifying event in Europe.
“I would have liked to have had a good week and add some world ranking points to what I have, but it’s not to be,” Donald said after shooting a 77 on Saturday morning. “Right now, the plan is still to play New York, but I have a couple more days to think about it.”
He said he had spoken to captain Colin Montgomerie and told him he would play The Barclays in New York. But that was before the PGA Championship began. And Donald didn’t anticipate missing the cut.
Donald missed the Ryder Cup last time with a wrist injury.
It would be hard to imagine him not making the team as the No. 7 player in the world. Then again, Montgomerie already is faced with leaving some marquee players off a strong team.
MAJOR FEATS, MAJOR FAILURE: For the second straight year, Camilo Villegas was among a dozen players who made the cut in all four majors. Villegas has the longest active streak in golf, making the cut in 11 straight majors.
The others who made the cut in all four majors this year: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Retief Goosen, Robert Karlsson, Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Steve Stricker and Nick Watney.
No one finished among the top 10 in all four majors.
Soren Hansen and Oliver Wilson made the less distinguished list in the majors. They are the only players who have missed the cut in all four majors this year. Brian Gay avoided joining them with rounds of 72-70 at Whistling Straits.
MICKELSON MARK: Phil Mickelson was given free relief after his second shot on the par-5 11th in the third round, and it’s a good thing. Not so much for him, but the fan he hit.
Mickelson’s shot bounced into the rough, hit someone around the arm and came to rest in his lap. He sat so still that it was still in his lap when Lefty arrived, signing yet another glove as a souvenir.
Mickelson stuck a tee underneath him, took his free drop and made his par.
DIVOTS: Senior PGA champion Tom Lehman made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole in the third round, using a 4-iron from 217 yards. He exchanged high-fives with Darren Clarke, famous for his own shot on that hole in 2004. Clarke hit a horrific shank, and the CBS slow-motion camera captured every split second of his shot. … The top 18 players going into the final round are from eight countries. … The last player in his 20s to win the PGA Championship was Tiger Woods, who was 24 when he won at Valhalla in 2000.