Scott Stallings’ sophomore season on the PGA Tour wasn’t exactly going according to plan – at least until he won last Sunday at the True South Classic. A winner last year at The Greenbrier, the 27-year-old tore cartilage in five of his ribs during a freak accident on the trainer’s table in January, and only recently did he fully recover.
Tuesday on “Morning Drive,” Stallings recalled a moment during his pro-am the Wednesday before the Northern Trust Open in February. After driving into the left rough on the 11th hole at Riviera Country Club, he thrashed out with an iron and promptly dropped to his knees, the pain swelling in his stomach. His caddie picked up the bag, and they walked back to the clubhouse. He missed the next month.
“I told (the doctors) I was going to play this regardless,” Stallings told me in April, on the eve of the Masters. “I’d play one-handed if I could.”
Indeed, playing at Augusta National fulfilled a lifelong dream. And he sure walked around the hallowed grounds like a rookie, too. When he showed up for his tee time Thursday, he realized he didn’t have his yardage book, or any golf balls in his bag, or a hat and glove. He walked onto the range wearing tennis shoes.
Despite all of the pre-tournament anxiety, and despite taking several pain medications just to be able to play, Stallings tied for 27th in his Masters debut. He paid the price a few weeks later, in Hilton Head and New Orleans, where it hurt to swing and it began a run of six consecutive missed cuts.
“I learned a big lesson in how to deal with an injury,” he said. “Playing through that probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done.”
But it did make his triumph Sunday at Annandale Golf Club all the more satisfying. Prior to that event, he had missed the cut in 12 of 18 events, and his best finish was a T-22, in the limited-field season-opener in Hawaii.
“Winning any time is a blessing,” he said. “Once is a dream come true, and everything after that is a bonus. With the year I’ve had, being injured and everything that’s going on with my family, it’s kind of a shining moment to get through all that and come out the other side.”