Tiger Cink to Meet in WGC Finale

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureTUCSON, Arizona -- Tiger Woods holed another crucial putt on the 17th hole Saturday, this one sending him into the 36-hole final of the Accenture Match Play Championship for the fourth time in nine tries.
 
Woods never trailed in a tight match with defending champion Henrik Stenson, who tied him with a 15-foot birdie on the 16th. But the 17th hole has been somewhat of a charm for the worlds No. 1 player, who might not be around if not for a 35-foot eagle putt he made in the first round, or Aaron Baddeleys eagle putt that just missed to the right on Friday.
 
After hitting a tough bunker shot to 12 feet, Woods holed the birdie putt for a 1-up lead, and wound up with a 2-up victory when Stenson conceded the final hole when he twice came short of the green.
 
Woods will face Stewart Cink, who this time has a fighting chance.
 
Cink, who was 7 under on his first nine holes in beating Justin Leonard 4 and 2, last played in the final group with Woods last month at the Buick Invitational. Cink started that round eight shots behind.
 
This time, they start all square over 36 holes at Dove Mountain.
 
Woods figures to have an advantage in experience, among other things. Cink has never made it this far in the Match Play Championship, while Woods won in 2003 and 2004, and lost in the final match to Darren Clarke in 2000.
 
Cinks last victory was the NEC Invitational at Firestone in 2004. Since that time, he is 0-for-85 on the PGA Tour, while Woods has won 22 times in 56 starts.
 
It will be the sixth All-American final in 10 years of this World Golf Championship.
 
No played better Saturday than Cink, who until this year at only advanced as far as the quarterfinals one time.
 
He built an early lead against U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and pulled away with four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine for a 3-and-2 victory to reach the semifinals against Justin Leonard.
 
That the match went 16 holes was a minor miracle.
 
Cink shot a 29 on the front nine, taking the lead with two short birdies, taking some fight out of Leonard with a 20-foot eagle putt on the 312-yard seventh hole and not dropping a hole until he was 4 up with four holes to play.
 
Cink and Woods have met only one time in this tournament, with Woods beating him in third round of 1999.
 
It feels great just to get this far, Cink said. To be in the final, its going to be a blast.
 
In his 13 matches at this tournament, Stenson has gone the distance in 10 of them. He was close to taking the lead twice until Woods made a 15-footer to match birdies on the eighth, and a 10-foot par save to stay tied on the ninth.
 
Stenson also avoided a three-putt on the 15th by making a 7-foot par putt, then squared the match on the 16th with a clutch putt of his own. Woods never felt as if he lost control of the match, although conceding one mistake could change everything.
 
Ive been in that position before, Woods said. Ive played umpteen more matches in match play that he has. And Ive seen it all. And nothing really surprises me out there.
 
But it was vintage Woods on the 17th, particularly in a week that began with his stirring comeback against J.B. Holmes with an eagle putt on the par 5. Stenson took himself out of birdie range with a poor wedge and a two-putt from 25 feet.
 
Woods birdie was good all the way.
 
Hes been pushed a few times this week, and thats all any of us can do, Stenson said. Eventually, well get him.
 
Cink got him once, but it was too long ago to remember.
 
He was at Georgia Tech when a Woods-led Stanford team came out to the Atlanta area. A day before the practice sessions, Cink played Woods at Druid Hills and beat him.
 
But that was a while back, Cink said.
 
He made up a three-shot deficit on the final three holes at Firestone in 2006, only to lose to Woods on the fourth playoff hole. Cink couldnt wait for the next chance, mainly because it meant he was in the final.
 
Ive known him practically as long as anybody else on tour has probably known Tiger Woods, Cink said. Hes just fun to play with. When you play with him in the latter part of the tournaments, it means youre doing something well.
 
Cink has been playing as well as anyone on Dove Mountain.
 
Only one of his matches has gone the distance, a 2-up victory over Padraig Harrington in the second round. He has played only 81 holes this week (compared with 88 for Woods) and has made 31 birdies and two eagles.
 
Woods didnt have it particularly easy on Saturday.
 
He and K.J. Choi halved seven straight holes with pars'six times, Choi had a putt to win the hole'before Woods chipped in for eagle on the 10th, rolled in a 30-foot birdie on the 12th and eventually closed him out, 3 and 2.
 
His golf wasnt as spectacular as his 12 birdies in 20 holes to beat Baddeley in the third round, but it was clean. After driving into the desert Saturday morning on the first hole and conceding without reaching green in four shots, Woods didnt make bogey the rest of the day.
 
Now, he is one match away from winning his 15 title in the World Golf Championships since the series began in 1999. A victory also would also be a WGC slam. No one has ever held all three titles at the same time.
 
Related Links:
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”