SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA | It took Kyle Stanley
just one week – seven long days – to erase the
darkest moment of his career with the bright-est. His first-ever win, at the Waste Management
Phoenix Open, didn’t come easy, but as the resilient Stanley can attest, they hardly ever do.
Or just look to Spencer Levin, the latest
casualty of a major meltdown on Sunday. Unbelievably, while Stanley had blown a nine-shot
lead over eventual winner Brandt Snedeker in
the final round to lose the Farmers Insurance
Open, Levin one-upped him this time around
by tossing away an eight-shot advantage over
Stanley at TPC Scottsdale.
Welcome to the gut-wrenching world of the
PGA Tour, where Stanley emerged from under a
cactus and out of a party tent on his last two holes
to record one of game’s great reversals of fortune.
(Coincidentally, the record for the biggest Sunday comeback on the PGA Tour is 10 shots –1999
Open Championship – and it is held by Scot Paul
Lawrie, who won Sunday in Qatar.)
“That’s golf. It’s a crazy game,” said the
24-year-old Stanley, a second-year pro out from
the small town of Gig Harbor, Wash., who equalled
the third-largest comeback in Tour history.
Stanley grabbed the lead early on the back
nine on this sunny day, and ended up pouring in
six birdies without a bogey for a 65 and a winning
total of 15-under-par 269. Just as key, he made
five straight pars to finish out his round and held
off a hard-charging Ben Crane, who ended up in
second place, one shot back after a 66.
“I hit a couple of squirrelly tee shots, but my
recovery shots were fantastic,” said Stanley,
who miraculously chipped out from under a
cactus and onto the green at No. 17, and then
took a free drop before curling a pitching wedge
onto the green at No. 18.
“I think the biggest challenge was seeing if I
could put last week behind me, and I think I did.”
So did his moment in the sun erase the
recent past? Stanley shook head and said: “Not
really. I’m never going to forget that, but I think
it does make this one a lot sweeter.”
Thus the onus of the biggest demise of 2012
falls on Levin, a 27-year-old Californian who
also was after his first victory in his third year
on Tour. Levin‘s fall was slow and steady, as
he birdied the third hole of the day to get to 18
under before three bogeys and a double spelled
75 and third place.
“You have a six-shot lead and lose, you gave
it away. My hat’s off to Kyle, he played a great
round,” conceded Levin, who followed up his 62
at Torrey Pines with a 63 in the second round at
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