CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Stewart Cink was 24 when he picked up his first career win 11 years ago at the TPC River Highlands.
The now 13-year pro moved to the top of the Travelers Championship leaderboard again Friday, making two long eagle putts in a 6-under 64 that left him a stroke ahead of defending champion Hunter Mahan and two others going into Saturday’s third round.
“I’ve played a lot of tournaments since (1997), got a lot of confidence and picked up some ability along the way. I’m looking forward to this weekend,” Cink said.
It didn’t look good early for Cink, who began the day at 4 under and promptly bogeyed the first two holes. He got one back with a birdie at the third before knocking in a 26-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 sixth. He bettered that shot by curling in a 49-foot right-to-left eagle putt on the 13th.
“I just kept staying down and staying focused on doing what I can do and that’s just stroking the putter through the ball, almost not looking up to watch it,” said Cink, who was at 10-under 130.
Cink is seeking his first victory of the season after six top-10 finishes.
“I hope it’s just a matter of time,” Cink said. “I hope it’s a matter of about two days.”
Mahan shot a 63, the best round of the day, to join Ken Duke and Lucas Glover at 9-under. Duke and Glover shot 66s.
Mahan has been under par in 10 of his last 11 rounds at the TPC River Highlands, where he won last year in a playoff with journeyman Jay Williamson. Mahan tied for second in 2006, and has made five consecutive cuts on the course.
“I just feel comfortable here,” Mahan said. “I make a lot of free swings and I can play golf and I don’t have to worry about where the ball might end up.”
On Friday, the ball usually ended up in the fairway, on the green or in the hole. The 26-year-old Mahan shot a bogey-free round, with seven birdies, including four on his first seven holes. He hit all 14 of fairways and 15 of 18 greens.
Mahan would be only the second back-to-back winner in the 55-year history of the tournament. Phil Mickelson won in 2001 and 2002.
Ninety-eight players finished the first two rounds under par, and 72 made the cut at 3 under, the lowest cut on tour this season.
“This course is playing fairly simple, and the scores are definitely out there,” said amateur Michael Thompson, who was the low amateur at last week’s U.S. Open.
Thompson (67) finished at 8 under Friday, tied for fifth place with Brad Adamonis (68), the tour’s oldest rookie at 35, and Kevin Sutherland (65).
Adamonis, from nearby Cumberland R.I., had to make a save on his final hole of the day. He hit his second shot over the green and underneath a small tree. But he managed to chip it onto the green, and sink the par putt.
“I’m thinking maybe it’s out of bounds,” he said. “Luckily, I had a window where I can get it on the green and I made about a 15-footer and it was a great way to end the day.”
Adamonis, who suffers from vertigo, had missed six cuts and withdrawn once in 14 starts coming into the Travelers.
A group of five finished the day at 7-under 133, including Tom Pernice Jr. (68), Heath Slocum (66) and Kenny Perry (67), who eagled his first hole of the day, pitching in a shot from 133 yards out.
“I had not holed a shot in a long time, and that was quite a way to open your eyes a little bit and put a big smile on your face,” Perry said.