Cink Puts Past Behind Him

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 18, 2003, 4:00 pm
Stewart Cink was scared. He dreaded Thursdays. He was playing with fear.
But notice that is all worded in the past tense.
Cink hasnt won on the PGA Tour since he triumphed at Harbour Town Golf Links in 2000. However, hes no longer the player he became the last two years, and hes again in position to triumph on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Cink shot 6-under 65 Friday to take the midway lead in The MCI Heritage Classic. He leads Hal Sutton (66), who is winless over the last two years, by one, at 10-under-par 132.
Cink, likewise, is playing well this week while mired in an extended slump. His last tour victory came in this event in 2000.
'It's been three years now, but I still feel really good on these greens and off the tees -- everything looks really good to my eyes,' Cink said. 'There's a lot of confidence just from those things.'
Friday, he started out with six birdies and one bogey for a front-nine 31. He dropped a shot at the par-3 14th, but birdied 17 and 18 for sole possession of the lead.
1997 champion Nick Price (66) is tied with Chad Campbell (67) for third place at 8-under. 'I think we're in for an exciting weekend,' said Price. 'A lot of guys near the top of the leaderboard.'
Eighteen players are within five shots of Cink's lead, but it's the quality not the quantity of those in contention that should make for an exciting final two rounds.
Four-time champion Davis Love III (69) shares fourth place, at 7-under, with Mark Calcavecchia (66), Geoff Ogilvy (67) and Ernie Els (67).
Els is trying to regain the form that led to four worldwide wins earlier in the year. Since injuring his wrist when punching a heavy bag, he has tied for 38th at Bay Hill and tied for sixth at the Masters, where he opened in 79.
Im physically 100 percent. Im just trying to get my game where it was two months ago, said Els.
Cink has progressively declined since his win here. He fell from 10th on the money list in 2000 to 26th in 2001; he was 73rd a year ago -- and it was a 'miracle' he finished that high.
I went through a stretch where I was just playing with a lot of fear and very tentative, he said. 'Part of that probably had to do with making my first Ryder Cup team and having the delay for a whole year.'
He also had to deal with the aftermath of the 2001 U.S. Open, where he missed a two-foot putt on the 72nd hole that, as it turned out, would have gotten him into a playoff.
'There's a lot of stuff that I was dealing with, but instead of just trying to push all that away, I really looked at it and examined myself and I learned a lot about myself over the last six or seven months and it's helped me play quite a bit better,' he said.
'I would come to golf tournaments and I would actually dread Thursdays. Dread Thursdays, because I had to go out there and go through all this (fear and anxiety),' he said. 'Now, I look forward to's just the night and day difference.'
Cink is also no longer one of the younger tour members. At 29, he's a veteran of seven years. He said that maturity has helped him immensely.
Its been something that Ive really been proud of, looking straight in the eye and overcoming some of the problems I was having, he said.
He has three top-6 finishes over his last six starts, including a tie for second at Bay Hill. His turnaround can be pinpointed in this years Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He was in good standing ' though not in contention to win ' through three rounds and shot a Sunday 66 to earn a solid tie for sixth.
Its the kind of situation where a year ago he would have felt very fragile and vulnerable to make mistakes.
I played a great round ' never really got nervous, he said. I realize now that 73 or 74 is not the end of my world. My wife is not going to lock me out of the house.
And neither is Suttons. Hal and his wife, Ashley, are celebrating their nine-year wedding anniversary this week. This is his first trip to Harbour Town in five years. He has played this event 12 times and has five top-10 finishes.
Top-10s are rare these days for the soon-to-be 45-year-old; his last came two years ago when he won the Shell Houston Open ' which will take place next week.
I havent hit my irons good in two years and thats the reason why I havent played well, he said. You can look at my stats.
A tale of the tape shows that Sutton has dropped from ninth in greens hit in regulation in 2001 to 94th in 2002. This year he is currently 96th in that category.
But things have improved this week -- and on Harbour Town's tiny landing surfaces, nonetheless. He hit 74 percent of his greens in regulation Thursday, and an astounding 94 percent Friday.
Sutton gives much of the credit to his good friend Price, who gave him a tip Tuesday. He said Price had noticed a problem for the last 'four or five months' but was reluctant to give advice.
He even prefaced it by saying, If you think Im going to mess you up, you can run me off,'' Sutton said. 'I thought, How can you mess me up?
Sutton tried to explain the tip as one where he gets the proper cock in his left wrist at the top of the swing. All Im trying to do is keep my left shoulder in the shot longer, he explained, saying that professional instructors were unable to detect the flaw that Price pointed out.
It has certainly worked thus far. He has made 12 birdies and three bogeys through two rounds.
Related Links
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    Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

    Just like that other tournament, right?

    Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

    But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

    After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

    Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

    “I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

    The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

    His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

    Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

    Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

    “When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

    But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

    While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    “I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

    But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

    Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

    Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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    Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

    BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

    The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

    First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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    Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

    In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

    After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

    “I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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    Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

    PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

    Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

    ''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

    Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

    A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

    Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

    ''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

    The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

    ''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

    Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

    ''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

    McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

    ''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

    Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.