Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cink, Haas share PGA Tour lead

HUMBLE, Texas — Seven players within four shots of the lead at the Houston Open have never won on the PGA Tour. Twelve still aren't in the Masters. One is a journeyman who had to qualify Monday at Redstone Golf Club.

In a tournament loaded with many possibilities, one big surprise is a major champion.

Stewart Cink has not been heard from much since that summer day at Turnberry in 2009 when he beat Tom Watson in a playoff to win the British Open. His highest finish since was third, and that was in the four-man field at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. In 81 starts since winning his lone major, Cink has missed the cut 30 percent of the time. He has plunged to No. 272 in the rankings.

But Cink finished another solid round Saturday by saving par form the bunker on the 18th hole for 4-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with Bill Haas.

"(Today) is a great learning opportunity for me to get out there and be nervous and perform and try to stay in the moment and let it happen," Cink said. "I can't wait."

Haas made seven birdies over his final 13 holes for 67 and joined Cink at 11-under 205.

There were 20 players separated by four shots on a course where birdies are available, but the slightest miss can prove costly.

"You can't just hang on and hope everybody else will fall back," Haas said.

Monday qualifier Steve Wheatcroft started well but fell back with an embarrassing finish. Wheatcroft was tied for the lead when he shanked a shot from the greenside bunker on the 18th, the ball coming out at a 45-degree angle, over the green and almost into the gallery. He made a 15-foot putt to salvage bogey for 72.

Wheatcroft still was only one shot out of the lead, along with Ben Crane (67), D.A. Points (71) and Jason Kokrak (71).

"If you don't catch it perfectly, it runs across the green into the water," Wheatcroft said about his bunker shot. "I opened the club face just trying to hit a high soft one and obviously I missed most of the club face."

Nine players were only two shots behind, including former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (65), former world No. 1 Lee Westwood (67), former PGA champ Keegan Bradley (67) two-time major champ Angel Cabrera (69) and Henrik Stenson (68), who was one round from playing his way into the Masters through being top 50 in the world.

Phil Mickelson shot 67 and was five shots out of the lead.

"I feel like I've got a low round in me (today)," Mickelson said before leaving to meet with former president George H.W. Bush, who attended the tournament Saturday.

Rory McIlroy three-putted from 5 feet on No. 13 for bogey and settled for 71. He was at 214, nine shots behind.