SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Stanley knew exactly how Spencer Levin felt.
Taking advantage of Levin’s final-round meltdown, Stanley rebounded from a devastating loss to win the Phoenix Open on Sunday, overcoming an eight-stroke deficit in a comeback as unlikely as his collapse last week at Torrey Pines.
“I really feel for him, experiencing that,” Stanley said about Levin, echoing what Brandt Snedeker said about Stanley last week.
“You don’t want to wish that upon anybody. He’s a very good player. Way too good of a player to not bounce back or recover.”
Stanley closed with a bogey-free 6-under 65, holing a four-foot par putt on the par-4 18th to finish at 15-under 269. He earned $1,098,000 for his first PGA Tour title.
“You go from a very low point to a high point,” Stanley said. “I’m not sure I expected to maybe recover this quickly. … I think the biggest challenge was seeing if I could put last week behind me. I think I did.”
Ben Crane had a 66 to finish a stroke back.
Levin, six strokes ahead entering the round and seven in front after one hole, shot a 75 to finish two strokes behind Stanley.
“It just wasn’t my day, obviously,” Levin said. “But I gave it away, simple as that. You have a six-shot lead and lose, you gave it away. My hat’s off to Kyle. He played a great round. He went and got it. But if you’ve got a six-shot lead and don’t win, then I think it’s on the player with the lead, for sure.”
In tears seven days ago in San Diego after blowing the big lead – dropping the final strokes with a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole – and losing to Snedeker in a playoff, Stanley cried again Sunday – this time tears of joy.
“I just want to thank my mom and dad. They’ve done a lot for me. I’m speechless,” Stanley said in the scoring area moments after the victory.
At Torrey Pines, Stanley led by seven shots early in the final round and still had a four-shot lead as he stood on the tee at the par-5 18th.
But his third shot had too much spin and didn’t get high enough on the green, spinning down the slope and into the water. He three-putted from 45 feet for the triple bogey, then lost to Snedeker on the second playoff hole when his five-foot par putt caught the right edge of the cup.
“I’m never going to forget that,” Stanley said. “But I think it makes this one a lot sweeter, just being able to bounce back. I’m kind of at a loss for words. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve gotten. It’s unbelievable. Unbelievable turnaround.”
The 24-year-old Stanley, one of the tour’s longest hitters at only 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, birdied the par-5 13th and par-4 14th to take a one-stroke lead at 15 under. On No. 13, the bearded former Clemson star powered a 376-yard drive just through the desert area to set up the tying two-putt birdie.
“Got a really good break there, not quite sure how that ball ended up where it did,” Stanley said. “We only hit 9-iron in there.”
On 14, he hit a 325-yard drive down the middle and holed a 12-footer to take lead.
“Kind of a chip wedge in there,” he said.
Levin, winless on the PGA Tour, birdied the 14th to regain a share of the lead but dropped back with a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 15th.
“I just didn’t have it,” Levin said. “Maybe I was looking ahead too much and trying too hard. What are you going to do? I tried my best.”
On 15, Levin’s drive bounced off the cart path on the right and ended up against a cactus in the desert area. He took an awkward stance near the cactus and got the ball back into the second cut just off the fairway with a hockey-style shot with his driver. After his caddie removed pieces of the cactus from Levin’s shirt and pants, the fiery chain-smoker hit his third shot in the water short and right of the green.
“I pushed it a little bit, but I guess I didn’t hit enough club,” Levin said. “I thought 4-iron would go over the green, and 5-iron didn’t carry.”Stanley, playing two groups ahead of Levin, parred the final three holes, playing a great recovery shot from under cactus to the right of the short par-4 17th.
He birdied Nos. 2, 3, 8, 9 and 11 to get to 13 under and within three strokes of the faltering Levin.
Levin birdied No. 4 to reach 18 under but bogeyed Nos. 4 and 6 and dropped two more strokes on Nos. 11 and 12 to let Stanley into the mix.
Stanley, though, wasn’t fully aware of where he stood.
“I didn’t pay much attention to the leaderboards until maybe four or five holes left,” Stanley said. “Once I made a couple birdies there on the back nine, I figured I was maybe getting close. But I didn’t really think about it too much today. I made the mistake of thinking about it probably all of the final round last week. So, this week, I just kind of tried to just let it happen.”
D.J. Trahan had a 66 to finish fourth at 12 under, and Brendan Steele (64) was another stroke back along with Kevin Na (65) and Bubba Watson (70).
DIVOTS: The crowd was announced at 58,447, bringing the seven-day total to 518,262. A tournament-record 173,210 watched play Saturday. The tournament record for a week of 538,356 was set in 2008. … Phil Mickelson shot a 73 to tie for 26th at 6 under. “I just couldn’t quite get it going,” the former Arizona State star said. … Mark Wilson, the 2011 winner, closed with a 64 to tie for 19th at 7 under.