By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Stewart Cink says Lee Westwood's biggest challenge on Sunday during the final round of The Open Championship will be not getting ahead of himself.
Cink, who shot a 69 on Sunday, won his first -- and so far, only -- major when he beat Tom Watson in a playoff at Turnberry in 1999, a playoff that Westwood came within a putt of joining. The former Open champ says the Englishman has definitely played well enough to deserve a major -- or more.
"The only thing that's standing in his way today is that thing between the ear that holds us all back occasionally," Cink said. "It's a tough prospect when you're leading, having never won, and have the monkey on your back, so to speak, and be free and continue to do what you're doing without thinking about getting ahead of yourself, thinking about what may lie at the end of the 18th green.
"So that will be his biggest challenge out there today with the conditions being a little more tame."
And what about Tiger Woods? What are his chances of winning his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open?
"I think you're bordering on waking the sleeping giant when you start bothering him about something like that," Cink said. "I include myself in your group, we have bothered Tiger a lot about things over the years, and he seems to come through just fine. He will be definitely a force to be reckoned with out there."
So does it surprise Cink that Woods hasn't added to his major haul of 14 in the last five years?
"It does but think about what he's been through in five years, to me it's remarkable that he got back to where he is, No. 1 in the world," Cink said. "Because he had a serious blow to that aura of invincibility. And he just is proving that that's not all he had. He's the best golfer that's ever played, as far as I'm concerned."
Cink is 40, as it Westwood. Woods is three years younger. But fitness, better nutrition and advances in equipment have lengthened careers considerably -- "especially these days, guys are just hitting their stride," Cink says.
"The only thing that I think is a negative as you get older is that you accumulate more of the negative stuff in your mind, the scars kind of build up," Cink said. "And golf will deal you a few of those. ... In golf knowing who you are on the golf course, I think, means a lot more than probably it does to any other athlete in any other sport."
Stewart Cink is looking to win The Open Champion for the second time. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Stewart Cink was almost philosophical following his round of 72 at Murifield on Thursday.
The 2009 Open champ was on the leaderboard as he played the front nine in 2 under. But he couldn't build on that solid start, hitting a few "crooked tee balls" on the way to four bogeys and a lone birdie on the back.
Not that Cink was obsessing over the round of 1 over.
"I'm not looking back saying, why did I do that?" Cink said. "You're going to make some bogeys. The golf course is playing easy and it's playing tough at the same time."
Cink said keeping the ball on the hard-pan fairways was the key. He only hit seven in the first round and followed with 12 of 18 greens.
"If you miss the fairways, you've got a lot of work to do because of the guessing that has to happen with all the roll you're getting, especially from the rough with a flier," he said. "You almost have no idea how far you're going to hit it. And the greens were picking up speed."
Cink said he three-putted the 14th hole from 40 feet -- sending his first putt 15 feet past the hole. The wind was relatively calm at about 10 mph, which Cink said was just enough to make a player think twice about trajectory and club selection.
"I was walking up the 17th hole thinking, I don't know if I've ever had this much fun playing a course in a tournament that meant so much," he said. "It's so much fun out there. Every shot is like a chess match. It's exactly what links ought to be, really."
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
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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.