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The Tour Report

February 23 2011

6:09 PM

Cink catches fire on back nine

Cink birdies No. 19

In the opening round of the 2011 World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play Championship, Stewart Cink defeats Ian Poulter with a birdie on the 19th hole at Dove Mountain.

MARANA, Ariz. -- Stewart Cink knew better than to give up.

Sure, he was 2 down to Ian Poulter, who had won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. But he still had four holes remaining, and Cink had been there enough times to know that things could turn around in a heartbeat.

And that's exactly what happened. A brilliant approach set up a 2-footer for birdie at the 15th hole to cut into the lead before Poulter’s bogey at the 17th squared the match. Cink extended the match with a clutch 6-footer for par at No. 18 and won it with a 3-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole.

"We didn't have our best, but the putter saved me," Cink said. "Certainly it does you a lot of good to make putts under pressure like that when you need them. I'll remember that match for a while." 

Cink's victory over the defending champ on the 19th hole was his 22nd win in 33 matches. The American has finished second, third and tied for fifth in the last three Accenture Match Play Championships.

"I do enjoy the finality of every shot like the do-or-die feel," Cink said. "It brings out a new level of focus. Also I think in the past I have been down in matches and come back and won and I have also been way up and had my matches taken to the last hole. That just sort of gives you the belief that you're never out of it even if you are couple of down.

"Ian was playing pretty well.He wasn't really giving away anything, but also he wasn't capitalizing on a lot of birdies. I just never felt like I was completely out of it. I just kept on plugging away. I was hoping some good things would happen and they did at the end."

Neither player was hitting on all cylinders early on -- in fact, they even halved a hole with double bogeys. But Poulter, who never trailed until the 19th hole, gained the upper hand when Cink bogeyed the seventh hole and the Englishman added a birdie at the 10th hole.

Poulter just never applied the knockout punch.

"It was cold and it was difficult to hit some of those pins first thing this morning," Poulter said. "The ball was releasing quite a lot, so the greens were still pretty firm. So it was pretty cagey, you know, for a while around that front nine.

"Then all of a sudden, I get my nose in front. I really should have shut the match out, to be honest with you. Every credit to him, holed putts at the right time. That's what you have to do in this format. You have to hole the putts. If you don't hole putts at the right time, then you are going to get beat.

"I had all my chances today and I feel that I left some out there. He putted me off the golf course today. That's what you have to do in this format.  You have to hole putts at the right time. I did it last year and managed to go all the way.  This year I missed my chances and therefore I have been punished."

Cink felt Wednesday's round a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" kind of performance. Once his putter "woke up" on the back nine, though, the veteran started thinking that he could turn things around in the match he knew was probably the toughest draw of the first round.

"When you're playing against a guy like Ian Poulter, you just don't feel like he's going to give you a lot," Cink explained. "He's played well. Especially, he seems to be getting stronger in his play, moving up in the World Rankings, and a lot of wins, a lot of good performances at Ryder Cups and obviously the defending champion here. 

"So you know it's going to be a tough match.  When I knew I was going to playing him first, I knew I was in for a heavyweight type of a contest out there. ... You just have to really force yourself into a mentality that losing is not an option."

Next up for Cink is Y.E. Yang, who won the 2009 PGA championship. Yang, who is seeded 11th in the Ben Hogan bracket, needed 20 holes to knock off Alvaro Quiros, who leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai.

"Tough match v Alvaro. Ironic that I beat him on the long hole. Tomorrow upset buddies me and Cink tee up. Right now working out." Yang tweeted Wednesday afternoon. – Helen Ross