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:
  • Leaderboard - WGC-NEC Invitational
  • Full Coverage - WGC-NEC Invitational
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.