Easy Ryder Cink Wins NEC by Four

By Sports NetworkAugust 22, 2004, 4:00 pm
AKRON, Ohio -- Stewart Cink birdied the 72nd hole Sunday for an even-par 70 and a four-shot victory at the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational. He finished four rounds at 11-under-par 269 and capped off a spectacular week.
On Monday, Hal Sutton chose him as one of his captain's selections for the United States Ryder Cup team. This week, Cink became the first player in 2004 to go wire-to-wire with no other player sharing a piece of the lead after any round.
'It means a lot for those reasons,' said Cink.
Cink won in Hilton Head earlier this year and became the seventh multiple winner this season, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Todd Hamilton, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia.
This was Cink's fourth victory on the PGA Tour and the first time in seven tries he finished atop the leaderboard after holding a piece of the 54-hole lead.
'It's a situation I haven't been really successful with in the past. I downplayed it a little bit yesterday, but I knew it,' said Cink, who pocketed $1,260,000 for the win. 'I feel great to be champion here.'
Tiger Woods, who could have been overtaken atop the World Ranking by big weeks from either Singh or Els, hit the driver better than he did on Saturday. Woods birdied the last for a 1-under 69 and a share of second place with Rory Sabbatini, who carded a final-round 68. The two were knotted at 7-under-par 273.
Woods never mounted a challenge to Cink on Sunday at Firestone as Woods' new Ryder Cup teammate held a five-shot lead at the start of the final round. Woods bogeyed the first, then came back with a birdie at two. He bogeyed No. 8 and once again responded with a birdie at the very next hole.
But Woods' driver abandoned him at both the 13th and 16th holes. He was able to get up and down for pars, but never got closer than four to Cink's lead. It was Woods' birdie at the last that gave him his best finish since his lone victory this year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
'Today I didn't make a run at him,' admitted Woods. 'I had to at least get to double digits (under par) midway through the back nine to have a chance. I fight. I go out there and give my best.'
Woods' best was enough to extend his record number of total weeks atop the World Rankings to 333, but it was not enough to catch Cink.
Cink parred his first four holes, before rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fifth. That gave him a six-shot lead, the largest he would have on Sunday.
Cink drove into the trees on the left at the sixth and made bogey. He parred his final three holes on the front side, but dropped a shot at 10. Cink drove in the left rough at that hole and missed the green short. He chipped to 4 feet, but missed left and thanks to three birdies in a row by Sabbatini, the lead was only three.
Sabbatini never regained the form that saw him birdie three in a row from the sixth. He did throw a scare in Cink when he drained a 30-foot birdie putt at 14, but bogeys at 15 and 17 meant Cink had the title all but wrapped up.
Cink iced the victory at the closing hole. He ran in a 10-footer for birdie to close out the tournament.
Now Cink, who missed a 2-footer on the 72nd hole at the 2001 U.S. Open that would have put him in the playoff with Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks, believes there is more to look forward to.
'I think my potential is just starting to be realized,' said Cink, who defeated Ted Purdy in a playoff for the win at Hilton Head. 'I hope anyway. I felt comfortable today and many more I hope.'
Davis Love III fired a 4-under 66 and tied for fourth place with Angel Cabrera of Argentina, who shot a 68 on Sunday. The duo tied at 6-under-par 274.
Chris DiMarco, who lost to Singh in the playoff last week at the PGA Championship, and David Toms struggled to rounds of 1-over 71. They tied for sixth place with Bob Tway, who posted a 68 in the final round, at 5-under-par 275.
Alex Cejka (66), Stuart Appleby (68), Lee Westwood (69), Robert Allenby (69) and Charles Howell III (70) shared ninth place at minus-4.
Singh shot an even-par 70 on Sunday and shared 32nd at plus-3, while reigning Masters champion Phil Mickelson carded a 72 in the final round and finished the tournament at 5-over-par 285.
Els carded a 2-over 72 and tied for 65th at plus-13.
Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - WGC-NEC Invitational
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