By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas – It’s been coming for a while now.
Stewart Cink has worked on his mechanics. He and caddie Matt Hall have worked on lines and concentration.
And Friday, it all came together as Cink jumped into contention with a second-round 66 that left him three shots behind leader Steve Wheatcroft going into the weekend at the Shell Houston Open.
“I’ve been threatening to put a round like this together for a while,’’ Cink said. “Today, early on, a lot of putts went in and it's amazing how much bigger the hole looks when a few go in early. All day it just felt really, really nice and calm out there. I just need to keep doing the same things.’’
While some players grumbled about the wind, Cink said, “it blew just the right amount for a good test.’’
Cink, who is playing for just the third time in Houston, was in a similar position earlier this year at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation where he finished T10.
The former British Open champ ran off three consecutive birdies at the fourth, fifth and sixth to turn at 4 under (3-under for the day), then closed with three more birdies on the back.
“I'm excited to be in position to maybe, you know, make a charge or, you know, within shouting distance of the lead anyway, going into a weekend or into a last round, it would be -- that's why we play the game,’’ he said.
Each week, PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton offers his Power Rankings for the weekly TOUR event as well as his Sleeper picks. But what about the players who don't make the Power Rankings but who can't really be considered Sleepers? Bolton will make one "wild card" selection from the large group of players who fall into that middle range but might rise up to claim the title. This week's pick is ...
Bolton's explanation: Shared 10th place at last week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. While a 71st-hole double bogey tainted an otherwise strong performance, it was his first top 10 in 20 months. This week he takes on a track that projects the likelihood for his mojo to continue. He's 9-for-10 at Torrey Pines with five top 15s. His tie for 13th last year was his best finish anywhere all season.
You can also check out Bolton's other predictions for the Humana Challenge:
Check them out, then join the discussion below.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The Coachella Valley is bathed in sunshine Sunday morning as the leaders of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation get set for the final round on the Palmer Private Course.
Scott Stallings owns a five-stroke advantage over Roberto Castro, Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, John Rollins and Charley Hoffman. Stallings, who did not make a bogey in his first 54 holes, is looking for his third PGA TOUR win in 58 starts.
Four of the five players tied for second are trying to end lengthy victory droughts while Castro is seeking his first win. Howell's last victory came in 2007, Cink and Rollins last won in 2009 and Hoffman is seeking his first since the 2010 FedExCup Playoffs.
The deficit is admittedly daunting. But over the first three rounds, the Palmer Course averaged nearly two-and-a-half strokes under par and the course gave up a 59 to David Duval when he won the tournament in 1999. Stallings and Cink both shot 66s the first time they played the Palmer this week while Howell and Castro had 67s and Rollins shot 70.
Cink, who lives in Atlanta, used today's NFL playoff game between the Falcons and San Francisco 49ers to size up Sunday's competition.
"The Falcons are about a four-and-a-half point underdog, and does that translate into a five-shot deficit?" he said. "I'm probably a 14-point underdog tomorrow with a five-shot deficit. So I think I have a bigger challenge than they do.
"They have Matt Ryan. I don't have another person to be my quarterback tomorrow. I have to be my own quarterback and receiver."
Should the 27-year-old Stallings go on to win, he would become the third player in his 20s to win in the first three TOUR events of 2013. The last time that happened was in 1977 (Jerry Pate/Phoenix Open, Bruce Lietzke/Tucson Open and Tom Watson/Bing Crosby National Pro-Am). Tom Watson also won the fourth week on TOUR in 1977 at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational.
Stallings would also become the sixth player under the age of 30 with three of more TOUR wins, joining Dustin Johnson (7), Rory McIlroy (6), Anthony Kim (3), Webb Simpson (3) and Keegan Bradley (3). He'd also get a second straight trip to the Masters.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The words were hardly what Stewart Cink wanted to hear.
He had asked the Mike Lipnick, who is the director of instruction at TPC Sugarloaf in Cink's hometown of Atlanta, to take a look at his swing. Cink wondered what was different from four or five years ago, when he made the 2009 British Open his sixth PGA TOUR victory, to that autumn day in 2012 where he was mired in triple digits in the world rankings.
"We worked for about 30 minutes and he looked at me and said, 'To be honest with you, I don't see a lot of strengths here,'" Cink recalled. "So that was kind of a little bit of a wake-up call for me because I still felt like I had some strengths, at least.
"But he said, 'I don't really see it. You're not really doing a whole lot of good stuff right now. You're not helping yourself out.'"
Cink wasn't prepared for such a blunt assessment. He appreciated Lipnick's honesty, though, and he liked the fact that the club pro didn't sugar-coat his words just because Cink, who was once a mainstay of the U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams, had been playing with the game's best for nearly two decades.
So the two decided to go back to basics. The main area of emphasis was to shore up Cink's set-up so he's rotating rather than swinging laterally. That way "I'm unlocking my potential to swing the club the right way ... and not by trying to make some motion with my upper body or arms or anything," Cink said.
Cink started playing better during the offseason and he was encouraged. But he missed the cut in Hawaii last week so Cink didn't know quite what to expect when he teed it up at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
So far, so very good. Cink will start Sunday's final round in a five-way tie for second. Granted, he's five strokes behind Scott Stallings but Cink knows progress is being made. He's staying in the moment and starting to trust himself again.
"It's a process that I'm still in sort of the very beginning stages of," Cink said. "But out here, I think that you're playing, even though one round and one shot are sometimes very important, you're still trying to play the percentages, where out of a thousand shots, you want the highest number of those to be good. And that's what I'm after.
"I'm after that overriding quality, not necessarily go out there tomorrow and shoot a 26 from the first tee box. So this is just part of the steps that I need to take to get comfortable being in contention and trusting myself and trusting my swing and what I'm doing with Mike."
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
2013 PREVIEW: Stewart Cink has many ways to improve this year. He didn't have a single top 10 in 2012 for the first time in his career, missed the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time and his earnings dipped to their lowest point since he joined the TOUR.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: The 2009 British Open champion didn't have many bright spots last year. He did shoot a season-low 65 to grab a share of the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship but shot 10 strokes higher on Sunday and finished tied for 15th. That final-round 75 was the second in a stretch of 13 rounds where he failed to break 70. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: What a smart, funny, intelligent man and what a good interview. Cink is always quick with a smile and good with analysis; unfortunately his golf game was not sharp in 2012. Stewart slipped to 149th on the money list with just $477,000. His putting is fine. Cink is 37th on TOUR in strokes gained putting but did not hit enough greens, ranking 117th in GIR. He is in the midst of swing changes that should pay off in 2013.-- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: Golf's original Twitter king suffered through his worst season since joining the PGA TOUR in 1997. Therefore, he sets up as one of the most likely to bounce back given his track record. So, at $477K, he's a virtual steal in salary games. However, given that he turns 40 in May, our long-term gauge is likely forever adjusted. The good news is that he's fully exempt through 2013-14 and he'll play in all of the majors next season. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
SOCIAL MEDIA: Find him on Twitter
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||T13||Farmers Insurance Open|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 14
Rounds played: 67
Top-10 finishes: 0
Money List rank: 149th
Driving distance: 105th
Driving accuracy: 178th
Greens in regulation: 117th
Strokes gained-putting: 37th
Scoring average: 183rd
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is your prediction for Stewart Cink in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know.
SILVIS, Ill. -- Tee times have been released for the first two rounds of this week’s the John Deere Classic. Here’s a look at some of the notable and more intriguing groups.
Which groups are you most interested in following this week? Fill out the form below and let us know.
Scott Piercy, Rory Sabbatini, Charley Hoffman: Piercy is coming off a top 15 finish at Greenbrier. Sabbatini and Hoffman both have top-five finishes recently -- but no wins.
Ted Potter Jr., Zach Johnson, Nick Watney: One week after his unlikely win at The Greenbrier, Potter finds himself paired with a couple of A-listers at TPC Deere Run. Johnson already has a win this season, and the Iowa native badly wants to win this event.
K.J. Choi, Jonathan Byrd, Stewart Cink: These three veterans all have multiple PGA TOUR wins -- but Choi's 2011 PLAYERS win remains the most recent. Byrd won this tournament in 2007.
Kyle Stanley, Steve Stricker, Camilo Villegas: Already with a win this season and three previous John Deere titles, Stricker is the favorite this week. He is paired with Kyle Stanley, whom he beat with a birdie on the 72nd hole last year.
FORT WORTH, Texas – Stewart Cink withdrew from the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial for personal reasons.
Alternate Gary Christian is now in the field.
Cink was scheduled to make his 15th start at Colonial this week. His best finish was a tie for second in 2000. He also tied for fourth in 2006.
Christian, the 40-year-old PGA TOUR rookie from England, is making his first start in this event.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A year ago, Stewart Cink was four shots off the lead at the midway point of the Wells Fargo Championship.
He cut that deficit in half on Friday as Cink fired a 69 to move to 10 under, which is two strokes behind Nick Watney. Cink, who is tied with Ben Crane, D.A. Points and John Senden, flirted with the lead, too, until closing with two bogeys.
"I was very pleased overall, and finishing like that is not what you want to do, of course, but they're tough holes and I missed a short putt on 18, which kind of stinks," Cink said. "But looking at it as a whole, I think overall very pleased, and I probably would have taken 10 under for two rounds before we teed off Thursday. I'm looking forward to it. It's a good challenge and a good chance for me to get some feedback on what I'm doing."
The last time Cink, who has been tinkering with his swing, opened with two rounds in the 60s this year came at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Cink, who shot a first-round 65 that was his lowest round in nearly a year, went on to tie for 13th there, which is his best finish of the season.
"I knew today was going to be a tough day for me because it's been a while since I was in that position, up near the lead after a day," Cink said. "So I really had to go out with a clear game plan, and I did. I went out and accomplished my game plan pretty well, stayed in the moment for the most part. ... Today was a solid day with not a great ending, but overall pretty good."
Playing Quail Hollow may have helped, too. Cink's last top-10 finish happened to have come in this tournament last year when he tied for ninth.
"I love playing here," the former British Open champ said. "This is a great golf course to play. It definitely puts a premium on focus. There's a lot of danger out there to sort of navigate through. I don't know, it seems to heighten my level of awareness of what I'm doing out there, my game plan."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Stewart Cink hasn’t had much to smile about this week -- through two rounds he was 1 under and near the bottom of the leaderboard. Saturday, however, Cink made a hole-in-one on the 190-yard par-3 eighth. He hit 6-iron.
The ace was actually Cink’s second here at the Transitions Championship. He also had one on the eighth hole during the final round of the 2003 tournament. He’s the first player to record multiple holes-in-one here.
Cink has four career holes-in-one -- the other two came during the final round of the 1999 Bob Hope Classic on the 12th hole of the Palmer Course and in the final round of the 2000 Bridgestone Invitational on the 15th hole at Firestone.
It also marked the 15th ace on the PGA TOUR this season.
Cink’s excitement was short-lived, however. Two holes later he double-bogeyed the par-4 10th hole.