5 Things: Stallings rallies to win; Thomas shows well
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Scott Stallings used four back-nine birdies - including one on the par-5 18th - to outlast the field at the Farmers Insurance Open for his third career PGA Tour victory Sunday.
Behind a 4-under 68, Stallings outlasted the likes of Jason Day, Marc Leishman, K.J. Choi and Graham DeLaet by a single shot.
Here are 5 Things to Know from the village of La Jolla, Calif.
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1. THIRD TIME JUST AS CHARMING: Scott Stallings might be remembered for his two-putt birdie on the 18th that sealed the victory, but the more important putt might have come a hole earlier.
Facing a birdie putt of more than 40 feet, Stallings left it nearly 8 feet short and was coming off a costly three-putt bogey on No. 16.
But Stallings stood over the ball and put it in the heart of the cup, maintaining his tie for the lead with four others at the time.
The putt seemed to give him some juice on the 18th tee box, as he pounded a drive down the fairway – then used a 4-iron to barely hold the green and set up the winning two-putt.
Stallings had seven birdies in the final round, the same as he had in the opening two rounds combined.
The victory came out of nowhere for Stallings, who had missed three of five cuts thus far in the wraparound 2014 season, with finishes of T-47 and T-58 in the other two tournaments.
Stallings also had missed the cut in his two appearances at the Farmers Insurance Open.
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2. TOP-10 THOMAS: Former Alabama All-American Justin Thomas - who decided to leave school early before the fall season - made his first four-round cut as a pro, finishing T-10 at 6 under.
It was also his best finish in a pro event - as a pro or amateur - for his young career.
Thomas had moved to 6 under and was within two of the lead after three birdies in his opening 10 holes, but back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 11-12 proved too costly Sunday. He'd add birdies on Nos. 13 and 15 for a 3-under 69.
Thomas had some success on the PGA Tour as an amateur, finishing T-78 at the Wyndham Championship in 2009, T-46 at the Greenbrier Classic in 2012 and T-30 at the Travelers Championship in 2013.
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3. GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: For years it has been part of the PGA Tour landscape: Finish in the top 10 and earn yourself a spot into the next week’s tournament.
Of course, there are always exceptions and this week is a shining example. A whopping 15 players finished in the top 10 at Torrey Pines and six of them (Will MacKenzie Ryo Ishikawa, Trevor Immelman, Seung-Yul Noh, Russell Knox, and Justin Thomas) aren’t high enough in the category ranks to get into TPC Scottsdale. Normally, the top-10 finish would get them in, but unfortunately for them, it will not.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open field is just jam-packed already. Even Michael Putnam, No. 1 on the Web.com list because of his money title a year ago, isn’t yet in. He will remain the first alternate, however, and somewhere behind him will go the names Ishikawa, MacKenzie, Immelman, Noh, Knox and Thomas.
As many of these players finished their fourth rounds at Torrey Pines, they sought out PGA Tour officials, their agents, and their managers to help wade through the regulations book. “I’ve never been an alternate,” said Immelman, who was like a handful of his colleagues – trying to determine if it was worth the trip to Scottsdale to sit and wait.
Thomas wasn’t sure he was going to go. “I think I’m going back home (to Kentucky) to freeze,” he said with a laugh, after a closing 69 – 282 left him joint 10th.
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4. LATE COLLAPSE: Gary Woodland looked to be headed to a potential playoff with Stallings when he stepped up to the tee on the 17th hole.
And then he yanked a 3-wood into the hazard, leading to a double-bogey 6 - ending any chance at winning the title, dropping three shots back of Stallings.
"This will be hard to swallow. I felt like I kind of gave one away today. Drove it well early and just didn't get anything out of it. I scrambled well late and unfortunately made a bad swing on 17," said Woodland.
"But all in all I'm playing really well. I can take a lot from this week. The golf course played really hard. Scott Stallings played a phenomenal round today. Congrats to him, that's awesome. I've got to keep riding this momentum and go play well next week."
Woodland opened his round with a bogey to relinquish his 54-hole lead, but responded with a birdie at No. 2. He'd add birdies at Nos. 9 and 13 to move to 9 under, but one bad swing on No. 17 cost him a chance at his third PGA Tour victory.
"I drove it pretty well early, gave myself a lot of chances and I just didn't get anything out of it and it kind of fell apart there on the back nine," Woodland said. "All in all, like I said, I'm playing well and I've got a golf course that suits me really well, and the good thing is I can forget about this and play well next week.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: K.J. Choi's 66 on Sunday vaulted him to the brink of contention, but having started the day too far back he settled for T-2; his round was, however, a shot better than Saturday's low of 67 from Andres Romero. . . . Bubba Watson was one of Sunday's biggest movers, a 69 snapping a two-round 73 streak. . . . Romero moved the wrong direction, shooting 78. . . . Charley Hoffman's hole-in-one at No. 3 keyed a front-round 31, but an even-par back nine left him settling for T-7. . . . J.B. Holmes' comeback ended with a 71 that got him to 3 under for the week, good for T-23. . . . There were no bogey-free rounds during the weekend. . . . Just two international players have won this tournament: Jose Maria Olazabal in 2002 and Gary Player in 1963. . . . Experience required: No rookie has won the Farmers, although Gene Littler won as an amateur in 1954, and Jay Don Blake in 1991 became the only first-time winner here. . . . There was a chance down the stretch at a six-way playoff; the last time that happened was in 2001 at the Nissan Open.