Cink has perfect week at Firestone
He led all the way against a field that included the best in the world.
AKRON (AP) -- Stewart Cink was amused by television analysts who speculated which two players U.S. captain Hal Sutton was going to pick for the Ryder Cup, especially when his name only came up once.
One week later, Cink was hardly surprised to be posing with the trophy after winning the NEC Invitational in the strongest performance of his career, a wire-to-wire victory at Firestone South that left Tiger Woods, Rory Sabbatini and everyone else little chance of catching him.
"My confidence is at an all-time high," Cink said Sunday.
"I feel almost better about being picked than I did in 2001 finishing 10th. Because Hal Sutton wanted me to be on that team. That right there says I'm feeling good about myself, but maybe it's not just me. Maybe other people are noticing."
Sutton missed the final round, where Cink never let anyone get within two shots of his five-shot cushion, closed with an even-par 70 and won by four shots.
From matching his career-low 63 in the first round to the final 15-foot birdie putt that put him at 11-under 269, Cink never showed more command of his game in a tournament that showcased poise and putting.
He became the first wire-to-wire winner on the PGA Tour this year. With his playoff victory at the MCI Heritage in April, Cink has his first multiple-win season. And the $1.2 million check -- the largest payoff of his career -- lifted him to No. 5 on the PGA Tour money list.
"It means so much to me to win in this style ... and to never really make it close," Cink said.
Held onto lead
He had been 0-for-6 when he had a lead going into the final round, a statistic that wore on him even with a five-shot cushion during the final round on a tough Firestone South course.
"I know I can be a front-runner just like anyone else," he said. "And I can polish it off."
Woods, the best front-runner in golf, was merely a bystander. He bogeyed the first hole by chipping through the green and into a bunker, and never got closer than five shots. Woods finished with a 69 to tie for second with Sabbatini (68).
He kept alive his streak of never finishing worse than fifth at Firestone in seven appearances, and he will keep another amazing string going -- 263 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the world.
Singh, Els struggled
Vijay Singh and Ernie Els had a chance to surpass Woods this week, but both had letdowns after a grueling week at the PGA Championship. Singh, who won a playoff at Whistling Straits, shot a 70 in the final round and tied for 32nd. Els never broke par all week, closed with a 72 and tied for 65th. He won't play again until the American Express Championship the last week of September in Ireland.
"I wish I would have won the tournament," Woods said. "The No. 1 ranking takes care of itself with wins. I was trying to win a tournament, and I just wasn't able to do it."
Sabbatini was the only player to give Cink a scare, making a 20-foot birdie on the 14th hole to get to 8-under, just two shots behind. But the diminutive South African bogeyed two of the next three holes to fall back, and Cink was solid over the last eight holes.