HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Stewart Cink didn’t sink.
The PGA Tour veteran of more than two decades shook off a lethargic start and then maintained his healthy advantage on the field in Saturday’s third round of the RBC Heritage on a sun-splashed Harbour Town Golf Links.
Armed with a five-stroke lead after posting a pair of 63s to set the 36-hole tournament scoring record, Cink made a sloppy par on the second and bogeyed the third thanks to a poor drive and a bad putt.
But he slammed home a 24-footer for birdie on the par-3 fourth hole and added a 6-footer for birdie on the par-5 fifth to up his lead to seven shots.
No one got closer than five the rest of the round.
Cink added another birdie from close range on the par-3 14th – he’s the PGA Tour leader in par-3 scoring average – and signed for a 2-under-par 69 to finish at 18-under 195 – breaking the 54-hole tournament record total by two shots (previously held by Justin Leonard in 2002).
“One of the things that we talked about before the round, and I talked to Lisa (Cink’s wife) about it, too, was expecting some adversity out there and being prepared for something like No. 3 where I missed a pretty easy putt, just a little left-to-righter, four feet,” Cink said. “But that kind of adversity under the circumstances is something you have to expect. The next hole I blasted that putt. If it hadn’t hit the hole, it was probably going at least eight feet past, but it hit the dead center of the hole. I did feel a little bit calm after that putt went in.
“It was not the hottest day with the putter, but under the circumstances it’s not easy to remain totally freed up. I was a little bit tied up in the results and it’s something I can recognize and hopefully get better at tomorrow. But it’s natural; it happens to everybody.
“Overall, though, I’m still pleased with a pretty solid round and didn’t do a lot of damage to myself.”
Reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa is Cink’s closest pursuer. Morikawa birdied four of his last six holes to shoot 67 and move to 13 under.
Six back is Emiliano Grillo (69). Seven back are Matt Wallace (65) and Sungjae Im (69). Defending champion Webb Simpson, who began his round 13 shots behind Cink, shot the day’s lowest round, a 64, and stood eight back with Matt Fitzpatrick (68), Harold Varner III (69) and Corey Conners (72).
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson shot an unspectacular 71 and is still at 5 under.
“I’ve got to put some pressure on (Cink) at the beginning,” Morikawa said. “If I go out and shoot even par like I did on the front nine today, it’s not going to get the job done no matter how many birdies I make on the back.
“I’m going to probably need a little help from him but knowing that this is a course where you can see 9-, 8-, 7-unders, I’m going to have to do that. I’ve seen parts of my game be able to do that, so we’ll hopefully put 18 holes together tomorrow.”
Added Grillo: “This keeps me there in the mix for second place so far. Stewart is playing some great golf out there and it’s going to be a hard day tomorrow if he keeps playing this way. I don’t know how the conditions are going to be. For sure they’re going to be dry and fast, and just got to go and make some birdies.”
Wallace said he has to make his move before Cink hits the home stretch.
“He’s just playing some great golf. I’ve just got to take care of myself, and if that gives me a chance with nine holes to go, with four, five holes to go, anything can happen around those last four, five holes,” he said. “That’s my thinking.”
After the round, Cink brought up a similar 54-hole lead he had 17 years ago at Firestone, when he led by five with 18 to play. He won by four.
“I remember sleeping little that night, and I’m a little different person now, and I think I’m treating this whole tournament with a little bit more gratitude, Reagan (his son) caddying and all that stuff, and it’s been sort of a stop and sort of pinch myself along the way and enjoying it more than I’m fretting over it.
“But it’ll still be a rollercoaster emotionally, and it’s going fun challenge to embrace that instead of fighting against it, creating some kind of a conflict.”
If he does win Sunday, Cink would have eight PGA Tour titles on his resume and would join Bryson DeChambeau as the only two-time winners on the PGA Tour this season. Cink won the season-opening Safeway Open, his first victory since capturing the Claret Jug in the 2009 British Open.
It would also be his third victory here – he won in 2000 and 2004.
Cink is in range to break the tournament record of 22 under set by Simpson last year, when the event was held in June due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Also in range for Cink is the record victory margin of 10 set by Brian Gay in 2009. Cink has made just two bogeys in 54 holes, more than offset by two eagles and 16 birdies.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/17/pga-tour-rbc-heritage-stewart-cink-leader-collin-morikawa/