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Saturday's golf: Cink sets another scoring mark, keeps lead at RBC Heritage

Associated Press

Stewart Cink is having a great time playing at the RBC Heritage with his son, Reagan, as his caddie.

He's winning, too.

Stewart Cink eyes his drive off the ninth tee during the third round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Saturday, April 17, 2021.

The 47-year-old Cink, closer to the Champions Tour than his PGA prime, maintained a five-shot lead and set another scoring mark at Harbour Town Golf Links on Saturday, moving closer to his third career win at this event.

Cink is reveling in his time with Reagan, chatting away like long-lost best friends as they walk down fairways and between holes.

Doesn't seem like he is feeling much pressure as he heads into the final round with a big lead.

“I think it's a lot better to embrace it, enjoy it and feel the tingle," of a Sunday with victory in reach, Stewart Cink said, “instead of trying to pretend it's not there.”

Cink cooled off from his pace in the first two rounds, when he shot a pair of 63s for his lowest career 36-hole score and shattered the event’s halfway scoring mark shared by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.

This time, Cink scrambled his way to a 2-under 69 to get to 18-under 195, also a tournament mark for lowest 54-hole score. The record had been held by Justin Leonard at 16-under 197 in 2002.

PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa was at 13 under after a 67. Emiliano Grillo of Argentina had a 69 and was another shot behind in third.

Matt Wallace of England and Sung-jae Im of South Korea were tied at 11 under. Wallace shot 65 and Im 69.

Morikawa said there have been plenty of low scores this week and he just has to post one when he goes out Sunday as part of the final group.

“Each day, I've shown little specks of good golf, I've just got to put it all together for tomorrow's final round if I want a chance,” he said.

While Cink slowed down, no one could dent his large lead amid Harbour Town's narrow fairways and smallish greens. That left Cink in prime position for a third plaid winner's jacket for his collection after finishing first in 2000 and 2004.

Cink rallied from behind in both of his previous wins here. His challenge 17 years later will be maintaining his poise on a course where front-runners are often upended. Only once in the past eight tournaments here as the third-round leader come out on top — and that was Webb Simpson last year.

Corey Conners began the day five shots behind Cink and finished with a 72. He was in a group of four at 10 under that included defending champ Simpson.

Simpson, who set the scoring mark of 22 under last June, had the round's lowest score at 64.

While the first two rounds showed off Cink's accuracy, this one called on his scrambling ability to stay out front. He was right off the tee on No. 1 and left of the fairway on No. 3, the latter miscue leading to his first bogey since Thursday's opening hole.

Cink slammed the door on any hope he might falter with back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes to restore the big lead.

“I did feel a little bit calm after that putt went in (on No. 4) and hit a bunch of good shots on five,” he said.

On the back nine, Cink saved par after driving onto the pine straw on No. 11 and again on the next hole after his tee shot stopped against a small, loose branch left of the fairway.

When Cink rolled an 8-footer for birdie on the 14th — his first in 40 rounds on that tricky par 3 — he had a six-shot lead.

Any hope of the world's top-ranked golfer, Dustin Johnson, making a third-round charge ended with a double-bogey 5 on the par-3 seventh. He shot a 71 and remained at 5 under.

Chubb Classic

Fred Couples took 11 holes before making a birdie Saturday and then made birdie on his last two holes for a 3-under 69 and a share of the lead with Robert Karlsson in the Chubb Classic.

Karlsson, the former Ryder Cup player from Sweden, hit his approach to 6 feet for eagle on the par-5 ninth hole at Tiburon Golf Club and nearly holed his approach on the 11th for a tap-in birdie. That carried him to a 66.

They were at 12-under 132.

One shot behind was the group of Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker (67), Berharnd Langer (68) and Alex Cejka, whose 65 was the low score of the second round on the Black course.

Langer had a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that would have tied him for the lead.

Eight players were separated by four shots going into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions event. That group included Kevin Sutherland, the Charles Schwab Cup leader, who had a 66 and was at 8-under 136.

“There's a lot of guys up around the lead, so you’re going to have to put a good number on the board," Stricker said. “The guys up around the lead, you're going to have to play a good round and maybe shoot 5, 6, 7 under and see what that does for you.”

Couples didn't miss a fairway and converted plenty of wedges into birdies in his opening 63. This was not a repeat performance. He played the front nine with all pars. He made par on the 10th hole. Couples hit wedge into 4 feet on the 11th, and after a bogey on the next hole, hit a towering 8-iron on the par-3 13th that rolled inches from the cup.

He made one of only three birdies on the par-4 17th, and closed out his round with a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

Karlsson is making only his second PGA Tour Champions start of the year, having tied for 30th last month at the Cologuard Classic. He closed out last year with five top 10s in his final seven tournaments.

“I’m just enjoying playing golf again,” Karlsson said. “It’s been a long time since November it feels like when we had sort of a good streak going. I just used the last six weeks trying to prepare for a long season ahead, and kind of just happy to get going.”

Austrian Open

Martin Kaymer joined Alejandro Canizares on 9 under after the third round to share the lead at the Austrian Open as both players seek their first European Tour title since 2014.

Two-time major champion Kaymer carded a 69 on Saturday to make up his one-stroke deficit on the Spaniard, who has led since opening day.

Maximilian Kieffer had a 68 and was one stroke back in third, followed by John Catlin (71), who went 7 under. Former winner Joost Luiten (69) was part of a group of three at 6 under.

“Mentally I’m really excited about tomorrow,” Kaymer said. “It doesn’t really matter what happens tomorrow, if you win or not, it’s nice to be in that position to have an opportunity to win a golf tournament.”

Kaymer has been after his 12th tour title since winning the U.S. Open seven years ago.

Canizares won the last of his two titles at the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco in 2014 and had to fight his way through the last two qualifying schools.

The Spaniard carded two double-bogeys Saturday, on the par-four seventh and 10th, but won four straight strokes from Nos. 3-6. Kaymer dropped two strokes on the back nine and had five birdies.

Nicolai von Dellingshausen had eight birdies and dropped just one stroke for a 65, the best round of the tournament so far. The German climbed to eighth, four strokes off the lead.

The event at the Diamond Country club, near Vienna, is the first European Tour event in 2021 taking place on the continent.

Lotte Championship

Lydia Ko is golfing like she is a kid again. In other words, she’s tough to beat.

No one came close at this week’s Lotte Championship. Ko torched Kapolei Golf Club and tournament records in the process. A final-round 65 Saturday left her at 28-under 260 and seven shots ahead of everybody.

Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, drives off the 14th tee during the final round of the Lotte Championship golf tournament, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Kapolei, Hawaii.

It brought back vivid memories of the teenager from New Zealand who became the youngest golfer — female or male — to rise to No. 1 the world in 2015. She is the LPGA’s youngest-ever winner, major winner, Rookie and Player of the Year.

Ko, who turns 24 next Saturday, won 14 times in her first 81 starts, including twice as an amateur in 2012 and ’13. But she had only won once since — three years ago — until Saturday.

“When it doesn’t happen you do doubt,” Ko said. “If I said I didn’t doubt myself at all it would be a lie. I wondered if I’d ever be back in the winners circle, but obviously I’m grateful for all that’s happened in my career so far.

“It’s been a fun week in Hawaii and to be back in this position is obviously super cool.”

Ko came up three strokes shy of the LPGA record of 31 under. That was set by Sei Young Kim, who finished tied with Inbee Park, 22-year-old Nelly Korda and Irish rookie Leona Maguire at 267.

Park and Kim, both from South Korea, are ranked 2-3 in the world and Korda is fourth. Kim beat Park in a Lotte playoff six years ago, while Maguire was in the midst of a brilliant college career at Duke.

Park, who vacationed in Hawaii as a child, now has five Top-Five finishes at Lotte, but no wins. With her 63, she shared low-round honors Saturday with Jenny Shin.

Shin tied for sixth another two shots back with Wei-Ling Hsu, Sarah Schmelzel, reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ A Lim Kim and 19-year-old Yuka Saso, making her sixth LPGA start.

Saso led after two rounds. Ko and Korda surged ahead Friday, with Ko’s 21 under score after 54 holes a shot better than Lotte’s 72-hole tournament record. That was set at Ko Olina Golf Club, which hosted Lotte its first eight years.

It wasn’t a huge surprise. In Ko’s last round two weeks ago she closed the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major, with a 62. In her last 100 holes she has just one bogey.

Korda struggled early and when Ko missed a long birdie putt at No. 8 she was three shots ahead. That flipped a switch.

She birdied the next four holes and six of her last 10. She was flawless, again. Low rounds were common this week, but no one came close to catching Ko, who tried to “keep it simple” and admitted she was inspired by Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth’s recent wins.

“I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and I know there were expectations,” Ko acknowledged. “I slept great last night. I just said, ‘Hey, my fate is already chosen.’ I’m just going to play the best golf I can today. I hung in there.”

Ko’s $300,000 first prize pushes her over $11.5 million for her career.

“I think it’s a great on her,” Park said. “She definitely had her really good times and she really definitely struggled in the middle there, and to come back strong like this is great to see.”

Canada’s Brooke Henderson, who won the last two Lotte championships, finished in a tie for 27th.