Haas, Cink share Shell Houston Open lead through 54

By Doug FergusonMarch 30, 2013, 10:19 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – Even as the clouds rolled in at the Houston Open, Stewart Cink started to see some light in his game.

Cink saved par from the bunker on the 18th hole Saturday at Redstone Golf Club for a 4-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with Bill Haas going into the final round. Cink is winless in 81 starts since the British Open at Turnberry in 2009. This is his first time with at least a share of the third-round lead in nearly five years.

And it doesn't figure to be easy.

One week after he shared the 36-hole lead at Bay Hill, Haas made seven birdies over his last 13 holes for a 67 and was tied with Cink at 11-under 205.

Sunday suddenly became loaded with possibilities that might even feature Phil Mickelson.

Twenty players were within four shots of the lead. Only three of them – Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and John Merrick – have won on the PGA Tour in the last year. And 12 of them can earn a trip to the Masters by winning.


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Highlights: Haas, Cink co-lead Houston through 54


''Tomorrow you're going to have to play very well,'' Haas said. ''You can't just hang on and hope everybody else will fall back.''

Steve Wheatcroft, the journeyman who only got into this tournament through a Monday qualifier, got off to a good start and fell back with an embarrassing finish. Wheatcroft was tied for the lead when he shanked a shot from the greenside bunker on the 18th, the ball coming out at a 45-degree angle, over the green and almost into the gallery. He made a 15-foot putt to salvage bogey for a 72.

Wheatcroft still was only one shot out of the lead, along with Ben Crane (67), D.A. Points (71) and Jason Kokrak (71).

''If you don't catch it perfectly, it runs across the green into the water,'' Wheatcroft said about his bunker shot. ''I opened the club face just trying to hit a high soft one and obviously I missed most of the club face.''

Nine players were only two shots behind, a group that included former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (65), former world No. 1 Lee Westwood (67), former PGA champion Keegan Bradley (67), two-time major champion Angel Cabrera (69) and Henrik Stenson (68), who is one round away from playing his way into the Masters through being top 50 in the world.

Mickelson finished his round of 67 before the leaders teed off, and he closed with a wedge into 6 feet for birdie. He wound up five shots out of the lead, still within range of trying to add another win before heading to Augusta for the Masters.

Mickelson met with former president George H.W. Bush, who came to the tournament on Saturday.

Rory McIlroy had a chance to join the mix. Swinging more freely, the world's No. 2 player was poised to reach 6-under for the tournament with a superb bunker shot to 5 feet for birdie on the 13th hole. He missed the putt, and then missed the 3-footer he had left and wound up with a bogey. McIlroy short-sided himself on the next hole for bogey, and dropped another shot on the 18th with a tee shot into the water. He had to settle for a 71 and was at 214, nine shots behind.

Wheatcroft and Kokrak are among seven players within four shots of the lead who have never won on the PGA Tour, and Wheatcroft still has high hopes of winning to get a two-year exemption in the big leagues. He would be the first Monday qualifier to win since Arjun Atwal in August 2010 at the Wyndham Championship.

Even so, the biggest surprise might have been Cink.

He has virtually disappeared since denying Tom Watson at Turnberry in a playoff four years ago, and he has fallen to No. 272 in the world ranking. Cink showed some signs of turning it around with a chance to win the Humana Challenge at the start of the year, and this might be his best chance yet.

''I'll be nervous and I definitely will not be ignoring the fact that I'll feel a little bit nervous tomorrow,'' he said. ''But that's just natural human behavior and I'm looking forward to it. To get back in the hunt is what you play golf for when you're out on the PGA Tour. It's a lot of fun and hard work, but I can't wait.''

Cink can only hope he hasn't forgotten how to finish, though experience could play a big factor.

Oosthuizen was the 54-hole leader in the Houston Open last year. Bradley was relieved to finally see some putts go in the hole. Westwood has started slowly this year, but he feels his game is rounding into shape at Augusta.

''There isn't a lot of experience at the top of the leaderboard,'' Westwood said. ''There are some tough shots out there. Few birdie chances if you're hitting it well.''

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry