Cink Leads Ryder Cup Teammates by Five

By Sports NetworkAugust 21, 2004, 4:00 pm
AKRON, Ohio -- Stewart Cink chipped in for birdie at the last to close a third round of 2-under 68 Saturday and take a five-shot lead heading into the final round. Cink completed 54 holes at 11-under-par 199.
Cink owns at least a share of the 54-hole lead for the seventh time in his career on the PGA Tour. However, he has not won any of the previous six events. Cink's best finish in those events was second place, which he has done three times, most recently at the Funai Classic last October.
Chris DiMarco, who played his way onto the United States Ryder Cup team with his playoff loss in the PGA Championship last weekend, posted a 3-under 67 to move to 6-under-par 204. He shares second place with David Toms, who double bogeyed the last for a round of 69, and Tiger Woods, who scrambled his way to an even-par 70.
Rod Pampling, Rory Sabbatini and Scott Verplank, who missed out on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad, are one stroke further back at minus-5.
After weather problems over each of the first two days, players completed their second rounds Saturday morning. The entire third round was completed as scheduled on Saturday.
Cink, who was selected as one of Hal Sutton's U.S. Ryder Cup captain's picks on Monday, closed his second round with five straight pars for a 68.
He returned to Firestone Country Club's first tee for his third round and opened with a par. Cink then got going with a birdie at the second to move to 10 under.
Cink, who owns three come-from-behind wins on tour, came right back to drain a 20-foot birdie putt at the third. From there, Cink showed off an excellent short game as he parred his next nine holes.
The 31-year-old Cink two-putted for par five times and he got up-and-down from off the green four times for par.
Cink lost his drive into the left rough off the 13th tee. After hacking out of the rough, he knocked his third shot to 12 feet. He missed his par putt and moved to the 14th tee at 10 under with a two-shot lead.
Cink ran off four straight pars heading to the 18th as his challengers fell off the pace. He knocked his second shot from the right rough just over the green and chipped his third into the cup for birdie and a five-stroke cushion.
'It's nice to finish off with a birdie, but there's still a lot in front of me,' Cink said. 'I've been around the tour eight years now and I've played a lot out here, and I know that anything can happen in 18 holes. I'm definitely not counting my chickens yet.'
Woods ran off three straight birdies late in his second round to move into a tie for second heading into the third round. He opened round three with a two-putt birdie at the second, but stumbled to a bogey at the next.
The three-time winner of this event two-putted for par on his next five holes before getting up-and-down for par at the ninth.
Woods dropped an 8-iron 9 feet from the cup to set up birdie at the 10th. After his second shot hit a tree and came up short of the 11th green, Woods walked away with his second bogey of the round.
He battled back at the par-3 12th. Woods dropped his tee shot within 7 feet and sank that birdie try. Woods did not hit a fairway the rest of the way as he hit just four of 14 fairways on the day.
Woods scrambled to four straight pars, but his poor driving caught up with him at the 17th. His tee shot went way right and bounced back towards the fairway after hitting a hospitality tent. He left his second shot short in a bunker and was unable to get up-and-down for par. He two-putted from the fringe at the last for a round of even-par 70.
'I hit it so good this morning it was scary.' said Woods. 'I didn't miss one single shot and consequently I made three straight birdies. Then I come out here (for round three) and played like an idiot.'
Woods will likely extend his lead as the No. 1 golfer in the world as the two players who could have passed him in the rankings, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, are well back. Singh is tied for 36th after a 3-under 67, while Els is tied for 72nd.
Toms, the 2001 PGA champion, collected three birdies over a four-hole stretch from the second. However, he mixed a bogey in at the par-4 fourth. He moved within two shots of the lead with a birdie at the 14th.
Toms pulled his drive way left at the last. His second remained in the rough and his third came up just short of the putting surface. Toms pitched on before two-putting for double bogey to drop to minus-6.
DiMarco picked up three birdies over his first 10 holes to climb to 6 under. He bogeyed the 13th, before birdieing the 15th for a share of second place.
'I was able to birdie three of the par-3s, and that's usually going to help you,' DiMarco said. 'Three twos on the card usually is pretty good. I made some really good par savers too.'
Jerry Kelly fired a 6-under 64 to move into a tie for eighth place. He is joined there by Charles Howell III (68), Angel Cabrera (67) and Luke Donald (65). Todd Hamilton, Robert Allenby, Bob Tway and Lee Westwood are one stroke further back at minus-3.
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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.”