Redemption for Stanley at Phoenix Open

By Jason SobelFebruary 6, 2012, 2:00 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Stanley stood just outside the scoring trailer at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the late Sunday afternoon sun beaming down on a smile that wouldn’t go away. Spencer Levin trudged past him, head down, looking mentally bruised and battered from a five-hour death march through the desert.

If there’s one person who could relate to what was going through his mind at that very moment, it was Stanley. One week earlier, he was in the same situation, losing a hefty lead at Torrey Pines in dramatic fashion. This time, in an ironic twist, it was Stanley reaping the benefits of another player faltering down the stretch.

“I really feel for him, experiencing that,” he said. “You don’t want to wish that upon anybody.”

This is a story about redemption and perdition. About perseverance and despondence. About what happens when one golfer makes the ultimate comeback at the expense of another.

Last Sunday, Stanley stepped to the final tee box at the Farmers Insurance Open with a three-stroke lead, only to post triple-bogey and later lose his bid at a first career title in a playoff. Afterward, he was understandably crushed. It sounded like simple lip service when he claimed, “I know I'll be back. I'm not worried about that. … I just need to be patient.”

He needed be patient for only seven days. Stanley entered the final round eight strokes behind leader Levin, who was six shots clear of his next closest competitor. It had all the makings of a runaway victory – except that in this newfangled world of upside-down golf, we’ve learned that playing with a lead apparently isn’t conducive to winning tournaments.

Much like Stanley one week earlier, Levin learned his lesson the hard way. On a day when the overall scoring average was more than a half-stroke under par, he posted a 4-over 75 – the worst final-round score of any player who finished in the top 60 on the leaderboard.

The recipient of such unintended goodwill was Stanley, who shot a bogey-free 65 to rebound in expressive style and erase the memories of last week’s collapse – for everybody but himself, at least.

“You know, I'm never going to forget that,” he explained. “But I think it makes this one a lot sweeter, just being able to bounce back.” 

Stanley’s one-week comeback was eerily reminiscent of what David Toms accomplished last year. In contention at The Players Championship throughout the weekend, Toms missed a three-foot putt on the first playoff hole to lose, only to triumph at Colonial seven days later. 

He was impressed by Stanley’s ability to pull off a similar feat.

“It’s hard, those emotions,” Toms said. “It happens so fast. … Looking back on what I went through, having a chance to win for hours and hours, then it’s gone in no time at all. But I think it’s important to get right back in it. When you’re playing well – or well enough to lead a golf tournament for that long – I think it helps to come back and play right away.”

That was Stanley’s modus operandi this week. After a brief grieving period, he mentally dusted himself off and made his first visit to TPC Scottsdale with a quick detour on the way. Prior to the opening round, he played a round at Whisper Rock Golf Club, home to many PGA Tour stars and one in particular who knows a little something about picking himself up after heartbreak. It was there that the 24-year-old received advice and support from Phil Mickelson, buoying his attitude before his next competitive round.

It’s now Stanley’s turn to dispense the words of wisdom, having lived Levin’s experience so recently, though he could only muster promises of better days when confronted with what he’d say to the latest victim of circumstance.

“He's a very good player, way too good of a player to not bounce back or recover,” Stanley maintained. “I feel bad for him. I really do.”

For his part, Levin's disappointment echoed that of Stanley from a week earlier. He forged equal parts heartbreak for what was lost and hopefulness for what may be.

“I've just got to find a way to maybe just tell myself it is a big deal because that's what we all strive for, but in the grand scheme of things it's really not,” Levin said. “My family still loves me, my friends are still my friends, I'm still going to eat dinner tonight. I guess I've just got to go with that mindset next time I'm in that situation, because I did not think like that today at all.”

The parallels between the downfalls of Levin and Stanley in the past two weeks come easy and plentiful – all of which should come as sign of good things for the former, who will tee it up this coming week at Pebble Beach. 

If the two of ‘em – and the rest of us – learned anything from these situations, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed in this game. One week ago, with Stanley about to clinch his first career victory, the oversized winner’s check was already written out in his name. In Scottsdale, that check remained blank until the outcome was clearly determined.

Kyle Stanley was more than happy to see his name written on it this time.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."