NEC INVITATIONAL Cink surges to lead in rain-delayed first round



Tiger Woods was in contention, but his No. 1 ranking could fall this weekend.
AKRON (AP) -- Stewart Cink made five birdies in the 10 holes during the rain-delayed first round of the NEC Invitational, which might suggest his game is rounding into form for the Ryder Cup.
Cink sees it differently.
It was just another reason why Hal Sutton made him a captain's pick.
"I'm obviously glad I've been picked, and it's nice to start out in this tournament right after that," Cink said Thursday at Firestone South. "But it really is more of an indication of the way I've been playing for the last couple months."
The guy who finished strong the last few tournaments started quickly at this one, even if the NEC Invitational got off to a late start -- by five hours -- because of heavy rain that softened the venerable course and allowed for preferred lies at Firestone for the first time since 1997.
And Cink still has to finish his first round.
By the time darkness fell, PGA champion Vijay Singh had finished bogey-double bogey for a 73, Tiger Woods was fuming over back-to-back bogeys and an incomplete round, and Cink still had eight more holes to play when he and 59 others returned this morning.
It was the first time since 1999 that weather kept the first round at Firestone from being completed.
In contention
Cink had a one-shot lead over International winner Rod Pampling, who was 4-under through 12 holes. Despite his sloppy end to the marathon day, Woods was 3-under through 17 holes along with Zach Johnson (12 holes) and Milwaukee winner Carlos Franco (11 holes).
"I was playing really well out there," Cink said. "And with these conditions ... it's playing vulnerable."
It was hard to tell what made Woods more upset -- ending his day by missing 8-foot par putts on the 16th and 17th holes, or not getting to the 18th tee before the siren sounded. When play is suspended by darkness -- not threatening weather -- players have the option of finishing the hole.
"They didn't start on time," Woods said, referring to the one-hour delay in the afternoon. "They started seven minutes late, or we would have been done with the 17th and on 18 right now. That's just part of playing the tour in summertime. You're going to get some bad weather."
His round looked familiar, too.
"I'm just [throwing] away too many shots out there," he said.
Woods might need to win this week to remain No. 1 in the world ranking, and Firestone is one of his favorite tracks. He won three straight times, has never finished worse than fifth and has never shot worse than 67 the first round.
Quest for No. 1
Singh only has to finish ahead of Woods this week to become No. 1 for the first time in his career. Singh bogeyed two of the first three holes, then chopped up the trees on the right side of the ninth fairway to make double bogey and shoot 73.
"It's the least thing on my mind," Singh said. "I want to have a good tournament, and then evaluate the ranking at the end of the week."
Ernie Els also has a chance to reach No. 1. He was at 1-under through 11 holes.
Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Thomas Levet of France were at 68, making them the clubhouse leaders.

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