Cink Leads after Rd 1

By Associated PressAugust 20, 2004, 4:00 pm
AKRON, Ohio -- Stewart Cink went from the last American picked for the Ryder Cup team to the first name on the leaderboard at the NEC Invitational, completing a 7-under 63 on Friday for a two-shot lead over Zach Johnson.

Cink played eight holes on soggy Firestone South to complete his bogey-free round, finishing with a 7-iron into 5 feet for birdie to match his lowest score of the season.
 
'I'm playing with a lot of confidence,' Cink said.
 
Tiger Woods, battling to keep his No. 1 ranking, didn't finish quite that well.
 
Leading the tournament briefly at 5 under, he made back-to-back bogeys to end Thursday on a sour note, and he was even more perturbed that darkness kept him from finishing his round. Woods was among 60 players who had to return at 7:30 a.m., but he had to play just one hole.

And it wasn't a good one.

'Not in the firs,' he pleaded with his tee shot on No. 18, which landed behind a fir tree. After a knockdown shot that never got higher than 5 feet during its 140-yard journey to the edge of the green, Woods chipped to 4 feet and missed the par putt, slinging his putter at the bag.

He finished the first round with seven birdies, five bogeys, six pars and four thrown clubs, which gave him a 68 on his card and in a tie for fifth with seven other players.

PGA champion Vijay Singh, who only needs to finish higher than Woods to replace him at No. 1, was among only 16 players who finished the first round Thursday, when rain delayed the start by five hours and forced tournament officials to send threesomes -- instead of the traditional twosomes at Firestone -- off both tees.

Singh bogeyed two of the first three holes, and ended with a double bogey for a 73.

Ernie Els, who also can rise to No. 1 this week, walked off the course Friday morning in no mood to talk. He returned at 1 under with eight holes to play, but two double bogeys sent him to a 71.
 
Johnson made two birdies inside 10 feet to reach 5 under, then holed a 15-foot putt on the ninth hole to save par and give him a 65.
 
Barry Lane and Bob Tway each had 67.

Joining Woods in the large group at 68 were Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Chris DiMarco, who is coming off a playoff loss at Whistling Straits that at least put him on the Ryder Cup team.

Cink didn't feel like he had the first-round lead. He played 10 holes on Thursday, eight Friday morning, then had about three hours to kill before his second round began.

'I'm not even sure what day it is,' he said.

Judging by his scorecard, it looked like he was rounding into form with the Ryder Cup only a month away, or perhaps proving to everyone that he deserved to be a captain's pick.

Nope. He's just playing the same good golf he was before.
 
Cink got captain Hal Sutton's attention with a fifth-place finish at the Buick Open, a tie for sixth at the International and a tie for 17th at the PGA Championship.
 
'I'm obviously glad I've been picked, and it's nice to start out in this tournament right after that,' Cink said in the gloaming Thursday. 'But it really is more of an indication of the way I've been playing for the last couple months.'

It was hard to tell what made Woods more upset -- ending his day by missing 8-foot par putts on the 16th and 17th holes, or not getting to the 18th tee before the siren sounded. When play is suspended by darkness -- not threatening weather -- players have the option of finishing the hole.
 
'They didn't start on time,' Woods said, referring to the one-hour delay in the afternoon. 'They started seven minutes late, or we would have been done with the 17th and on 18 right now. That's just part of playing the tour in summertime. You're going to get some bad weather.'

His round looked familiar, too.

'I'm just (throwing) away too many shots out there,' he said.

Thunder came from the gathering dark clouds Thursday afternoon, and more rumbling came from the vicinity of Woods' group. His temper flared on the opening hole when he badly pulled a 30-inch par putt, and despite three straight birdies from inside 4 feet to get to 2 under and a share of the very early lead, he lost it again.

First came a tee shot he pulled into the left bunker -- the pin was to the right -- and a fat shot out of the bunker that cause him to sling his sand wedge some 20 feet at his golf bag; then came a wedge out of the first cut that sailed to the right, followed by another tossed club.
 
Still, a chip-in from 80 feet short of the green gave him a tie for the lead at the turn, and then he looked like the Woods of old on one of his favorite tracks.
 
He made three birdies in a four-hole span ending on the 15th to get to 5-under, but his round unraveled the rest of the way with three straight bogeys for a 68 -- not the worst score, but it felt that way.
 
Woods has played this course so well -- winning three straight times (1999-2001) and never finishing lower than a tie for fifth -- that it was his highest first-round score in seven trips to Firestone.
 
Related Links:
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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”