That Cinking Feeling

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All right, show of hands: How many of you, when the third round of the PODS Championship concluded, were picking Sean O Hair to win? How many of you selected Sean OHair in your fantasy golf leagues before the tournament began?
 
All due respect, Sean OHair won his second TOUR event Sunday, beating six other players by two shots. He is 25 years old and there isnt an expert alive who doesnt like his attitude, his work ethic or his game.
 
But Sean OHair showed up in Tampa last week ranked 76th in the world and No. 82 on the Ryder Cup point standings. He was, in short, a little bit lost.
 
Which is why Stewart Cinks meltdown is a more compelling story. Once again, a top American player who has been underachieving in recent years had his feet held to the fire on Sunday. Turns out he wasnt wearing asbestos socks.
 
Cink showed up at Tampa in fourth place in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. He will almost certainly make the team. At the end of the day, captain Paul Azinger might have been a little nervous.
 
We got our first taste of this 2008 script in January when Justin Leonard, who used to be considered a perennial Ryder Cupper, spent a four-shot lead after 54 holes and could only watch as a lesser-light named D. J. Trahan leave him in the desert dust in the final pairing while winning the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
 
Cinks lead after 54 holes at PODS was two shots. And that margin quickly doubled when he birdied the first and second holes at Innisbrooks estimable Copperhead course. But then Cink missed a short one for par on the third. Then he added a bogey at the par-3 8th.
 
And quicker than you can say blonde ambition, Billy Mayfair, a solid ball striker, had crept to within one shot. All of a sudden Johnny Miller and the boys with the mikes were properly reminding the viewers at home that Cinks record in closing the deal with at least a share of the 54-hole lead was 1-for-8. Worse, Cink hadnt won on TOUR since the 2004 WGC-NEC (now the Bridgestone).
 
Bravely, Cink had met with reporters late Saturday and told them, My goal tomorrow is to give no one a chance. That hope was out the window before Cink had finished his outward nine.
 
Then there was this matter of Cink and Tiger Woods. Cink finished in a tie for third earlier this year at the Buick Invitational, where Woods prevailed by eight shots.
 
Cink caught heat at Torrey Pines for not catching Tiger. And the momentum grew at the WGC-Accenture Match Play last month where, Woods destroyed Cink in the finals, 8 and 7.
 
During the course of that match Cink appeared to be enjoying the day and the company if not the thrashing he was getting from Woods. So more critics surfaced and questioned his toughness and competitive fire.
 
It was a fair point to raise, but one that needed to be accompanied by the names of the players Cink had beaten to get to the final: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Angel Cabrera and the aforementioned Leonard. If youre keeping score, thats three recent European Ryder Cuppers and the reigning U.S. and British Open champions.
 
Moreover, Cink might have been excused if he was thinking no good deed goes unpunished. He had, after all, only entered the PODS Championship at the last minute because his son was playing in a hockey tournament the following week. If Cink was going to attend the hockey tournament (which he will), he was going to have to miss the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That left PODS as the open spot on his Florida schedule.
 
Mayfairs history with Woods, meanwhile, was quite different. His playoff victory over Woods at the 1998 Nissan Open was the only PGA TOUR event Woods has lost in overtime in 11 tries. Maybe Cink was aware of this. Maybe he wasnt. But it was all part of the fabric of Sundays tournament as the players got to the final nine holes.
 
Thats when Mayfair cooled and OHair made a 32-foot bomb on 15 for a birdie to take the lead. OHairs victory rocketed him to No. 12 on the U.S. Ryder Cup standings (Cink actually moved up to No. 3) and No. 35 in the world rankings. The victory gets him into next months Masters.
 
Still, Cink was the player you couldnt take your eyes off of on the back nine.
 
It started with a failure to birdie the gettable par-5 11th after a perfect drive that left him with 236 yards to the hole. Next came a three-putt bogey on 13 followed by a bogey on the par-5 14th that stemmed from a tee ball that stopped next to a tree. On 15, Cink missed a 5-foot birdie putt and followed that with a drive into the water right on 16. The wheels were officially off by the time he made a consolation birdie on 17.
 
I really feel I played well enough to win with the exception of two tee shots and a couple of putts, said Cink, who had the good grace to talk to the media afterward.
 
What did he learn?
 
That one might take a while to figure.
 
Right now, what Cink knows is this: Winning, on the PGA TOUR, is hard.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - PODS Championship