Free from the burden of trying to make the Ryder Cup team, Stewart Cink looked at ease yesterday on a marathon day at the NEC Invitational that ended with his name atop the leader board in Akron, Ohio.

Three days after he was a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup, Cink made five birdies on his first 10 holes on soggy Firestone South to lead by one shot over Rod Pampling when the rain-delayed first round was suspended by darkness.

"I was playing really well out there," Cink said. "And with these conditions . . . it's playing vulnerable."

Steady overnight rain, which got heavier yesterday morning, made the fairways so soft and wet that players were allowed to lift, clean and place their ball for the first time at Firestone since 1997.

With a five-hour delay at the start and another hour late in the afternoon, only 16 players in the 76-man field finished their round. The rest will return at 7:30 a.m. today.

Tiger Woods had the lead to himself until he finished with back-to-back bogeys, both times missing eight-foot putts, to fall two shots off the lead. He was 3 under through 17 and may have to win the tournament to keep his No. 1 world ranking.

* PGA: Rookie Roland Thatcher shot a 6-under-par 66 to take the early lead at the rain-delayed Reno-Tahoe Open in Reno, Nev.

Thatcher, a former Auburn star in his first season on the PGA Tour, birdied his first four holes and six of his first eight.

Mark Wiebe and Mark Wilson were a stroke back after 67s, and Corey Pavin was in a group another shot behind at 68.

Rain and lightning delayed play for more than four hours, and about half the 132-player field was still on the course when play was suspended because of darkness. Play is to resume early today.

* LPGA: Kristi Albers turned her day around with one swing. Michelle Wie's round ended when she was barely halfway done.

Albers had a hole-in-one on the 17th and shot a 5-under 67 for a share of the lead with defending champion Hee-Won Han in the rain-delayed opening round of the Wendy's Championship for Children in Dublin, Ohio.

A violent storm rocked Tartan Fields Golf Club late in the day after half of the 144-player field had completed the first round. After a delay, a second storm washed out the round.

The remaining 66 players will complete their rounds early today, with the second round to follow.

* U.S. AMATEUR: Danny Green, the oldest player in the field at 47, moved into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur with a 2-up victory over Spencer Levin, and NCAA champion Ryan Moore also advanced by rallying in the final five holes to beat Aron Price, 1 up, in Mamaroneck, N.Y.