Cink shows he can close with victory at the Travelers Championship
CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) Stewart Cink had a reputation as a good golfer who just couldn't finish off a tournament.
His collapse during the fourth round of the PODS Championship in March left him with just one victory in the nine career events where he had the lead going into the last day.
On Sunday, he put that behind him, holding off a late charges from Tommy Armour III and defending champion Hunter Mahan to win the Travelers Championship by a stroke. With the victory, Cink was projected to go to a career-high No. 6 in the world ranking.
Cink shot a 3-under 67 - following rounds of 66, 64 and 65 - to finish at 18 under for his fifth career victory and first since 2004. Armour (65) and Mahan (65) tied for second.
Cink earned his first career win here as a rookie, and came into the day with a two-stroke lead over Heath Slocum.
"I know there has been some talk that I have not been a closer," Cink said. "They had every right to say that, because I felt the same way myself. So I felt that I had something to prove to myself."
He finished with a career-best 262 over the four rounds, five shots better than his 1997 total of 267. It was his first win after six top-10 finishes this year, earning him $1.08 million. It also pushed him to third place in the FedEx Cup standings behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and into second place in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings.
For a while, though, it looked as though the tournament was heading for a three-way playoff.
Leading by a stroke, Cink hit a 365-yard tee shot on the 18th into the crowd to the right, and his approach went just over the green. But he recovered nicely, getting up and down from just under 2 feet to save par.
"To stand over that last putt, even though it was only 2 feet long, and to knock it in the middle, it was a great feeling," he said.
Armour, who at 48 was looking to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour this season, shot a bogey-free 65. He put his approach on 17 about 4 feet from the pin and made birdie. But he missed a 37-foot putt on 18 that would have given him a share of the lead.
Mahan, looking to become the first repeat champion here since Mickelson in 2002, had birdies on his final two holes to make it interesting. He hit an 18-foot putt on the 17th, then hit a wedge shot 3 feet from the pin on 18.
Mahan earned his first tour victory here a year ago, making a birdie on the first playoff hole to capture the title over journeyman Jay Williamson. Mahan tied for second behind J.J. Henry in 2006.
"I played really well," he said. "I had a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday, so I couldn't be more happy."
Slocum was on Cink's heels for most of the round. But Cink matched him birdie for birdie on Nos. 6, 9, 13 and 15.
Cink hit the green on 16 and made par. Slocum came up short, pitched his ball well right and ended with a bogey that knocked him two shots behind, where he finished.
"I positioned myself nicely. I just didn't hit a few more quality shots," Slocum said. "Obviously, I needed to hole a few more putts."
Cink played tentatively for most of the front nine. He three-putted on the fourth hole, dropping into a tie with Vijay Singh and Armour. He regained sole possession of the lead on the ninth, sinking a 21-foot downhill putt for birdie. His birdie on the 13th hole kept him one shot up.
Singh was in contention until he bogeyed the par-5 13th, which he had birdied the previous three days. He hit his tee shot right and into the water. He finished in fifth place at 14 under.
"I had chances on the front nine, but I did not capitalize," he said.
After three consecutive days of calm winds and soft greens, conditions deteriorated on Sunday. In an effort to avoid predicted thunderstorms, tournament officials moved the start up to 7:30 a.m. and had the golfers going in threesomes off the first and 10th tees.
The winds began picking up and play was suspended for just over an hour when thunder began rumbling over the course shortly before 1 p.m.
"Sometimes when you have to wait a little bit, you have to go through a few extra trials, it seems a little bit sweeter," Cink said. "This time, the way that I was able to do it - I had the lead all weekend, we had to endure a rain delay and guys were firing left and right. I stayed a step ahead, just enough. I think that makes it even more sweet."