Cink leads bogey-prone Woods

Tiger Woods recovered from a rare run of bogeys to pull within one shot of leader Stewart Cink on Saturday after the third round of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods, the overnight leader, stunningly made four straight bogeys from the par-three fifth at Firestone Country Club—his worst stretch of holes in a decade.

Not since the second round of the 1996 Tour Championship, when he dropped six shots in a five-hole stretch, had Woods endured such a rough patch.

“My body took me out of the tournament and my mind will bring me back in it,” he said, when asked what his attitude had been standing on the ninth tee.

“I didn’t hit the ball good and my [putting] speed wasn’t good early, but the mind is powerful enough to tell the body what to do.”

Woods, who arrived at the $7,5-million tournament riding a wave of three straight victories—including the British Open and PGA Championship—steadied himself coming home.

He picked up two strokes on his inward run for a one-over 71 that saw his run of 17 straight rounds of par or better came to an end.

Despite his off day, Woods still had a good chance of adding to the four titles he has won in the seven times this event has been held here.

As Woods faltered, and Davis Love let a promising round slip away, Cink surged to the front with six birdies in a flawless 64 and a total of nine-under 201.

That was one in front of Woods, Love—who settled for a 70—and England’s Paul Casey, who posted a 64. Jim Furyk fired a 69 for 203.

“It wasn’t my back,” Woods said, when asked if he was hurt. “It was an elephant running over my back.
The whole field just ran over me. It’s a huge bonus to only be one back. Davis could have run away with this thing but it didn’t work out that way.”

Woods, who had chipped in for a birdie at the third hole to open a two-shot lead, said he wasn’t surprised by what ensued.

“I didn’t really have it with my ball-striking, my putting and some of my chips weren’t very good either, although I did hole two, which was nice,” he said. “My distance control was bad all day. I was short, long, left, right.”

His troubles started with a three-putt bogey from long range at the fifth hole, while his long game let him down at the next three holes, as he found a greenside bunker at the par-four sixth, before missing the green at the next two holes as well.

Love made his move with three straight birdies from the eighth, but couldn’t sustain the momentum and surrendered the lead to Cink.

“I played well all day and when I made mistakes I was able to save pars,” said Cink, who is on an emotional high after being named one of Tom Lehman’s two captain’s picks on the United States Ryder Cup team on Monday.

“Last time, being the leader after three rounds, it was by five shots, so I’ve got a lot more of a dog fight on my hands this time. I don’t control my destiny near as much as last time.”

Cink said he did a double-take when he noticed Woods’s woes on the leaderboard.

“I was a little surprised, because it’s Tiger, but the way the course is, even the great Tiger Woods can make some bogeys out there,” Cink said. “The course is tougher than last week [at the PGA Championship at Medinah].

“The fairways are harder to hit, the greens are faster and more firm. This week, if you don’t hit it solid, it’s probably going over [the green]. You need to spin the ball and the only way to do that is with crisp contact.”

Love, meanwhile, tried to look on the bright side, which is probably the only way to go when you haven’t won in more than three years.

“Like Tiger, I had a good streak and a bad streak and end up still with a chance to win,” he said. “I’m real happy with the way I’m hitting it, and if I can get a couple more putts to drop tomorrow, I’ll be in good shape.”

Casey’s round included eight birdies, to offset two bogeys.

He arrived in the clubhouse as Love was flourishing and Woods faltering.

“I didn’t think I’d be chasing Davis,” he said. “Nothing against Davis. I knew he was going to be up there, but I think that was a bit of a shock for everybody to see the scores. The way Tiger has been playing, I didn’t see that coming.” - Sapa-AFP

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