It was hard to believe that after all the lessons he received from Davis Love III this week, Ernie Els still couldn't polish off the MCI Classic, even with a two shot head start at the beginning of the day.
Els fired a closing 74 to finish five shots behind Stewart Cink, who closed with an impressive 6-under 65 to win his second PGA Tour event.
The South African had five bogeys during the final round yesterday and appeared to be dog tired after an emotionally draining week at The Masters, finishing second behind Vijay Singh.
"Yeah, I played terrible," said Els, who closed with a 74 to finish five shots behind Cink. "I don't know what to say."
Cink had birdies on three of the final four holes to overtake Tom Lehman, whose also shot a 65 to jump from 12th to second.
Masters winner Vijay Singh shot a 64 to tie for third with Els, Love, Larry Mize, Edward Fryatt and first-round leader Dan Forsman.
"I wish I had played in this every year now," said Cink, a 27-year-old whose only other PGA TOUR victory came in the 1997 Canon Greater Hartford Open. "This sure is a week to remember."
Els was at 12 under and cruising. But his game came apart after he stubbed a chip on the eighth hole that led to a bogey. He mishit a flop shot three holes later for another bogey, his third in five holes. Els pushed a 6-foot par putt wide on the par-3 14th and was never in it again.
"I think the bogey on No. 8 kind of got to me a little bit," he said. "I started looking at the scoreboards."
Cink had birdies on the sixth, eighth and ninth holes and turned just a shot behind Els.
"I knew after the front nine, I could have a shot at making a charge," Cink said. "But I wanted to make sure I was pushing forward."
He did that when it counted. Cink slipped in an 8-foot putt for birdie on the 15th and a 6-footer for birdie to take the lead on the 16th. On the 18th, needing a par to win -- with Lehman practising putts in hopes of a playoff -- Cink hit his approach shot 10 feet from the flag and rolled that in for his victory.