Stadler's win sets up father-son Masters

Kevin Stadler shot a 3-under 68 on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to secure his first PGA Tour victory.

Kevin Stadler shot a 3-under 68 on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to secure his first PGA Tour victory.

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Kevin Stadler was 2 years old when his dad won the 1982 Masters. Craig Stadler would’ve stopped playing at Augusta years ago – “the course is too damn long” – but he’s been waiting on Kevin to join him.

Well, this is the year.

Bubba Watson’s 5-foot par putt slid left on the 72nd hole of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday, giving Kevin Stadler a one-stroke victory and his first PGA Tour title in 239 starts.

“It’s been a long time since I won anything,” Kevin Stadler said.

Craig Stadler, a 13-time winner on the PGA Tour and a nine-time winner on the Champions Tour, returned home to Colorado from an overseas duck-hunting trip just in time to see his oldest son’s triumph. They are the ninth father-son combo to win on the PGA Tour.

“The first one is so hard,” Craig said.

Tour media guides list the father/son duo at the same height (5 feet, 10 inches) and weight (250 pounds). Indeed, their relation is unmistakable.

When asked if having the last name Stadler added any pressure to his career, the low-key Kevin smiled and said, “It’s the only last name I’ve ever had.”

While the Walrus beamed with pride over a speakerphone with the media, Kevin was less enthusiastic when asked to describe their relationship.

Are they close?

Kevin let out a prolonged “hmmmm” as he thought about how to answer.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Kevin finally said. “Rather not talk about that, but it’s fine.”

It was a surprising response for what seemed to be a no-brainer, feel-good moment. Kevin was then told that just moments before, Craig had said he was Kevin’s biggest fan, even if his son didn’t know it.

Well, did he know it?

“Absolutely,” Kevin said. “Obviously I get along with him fine. I’m just not as close with him now as I used to be, but he’s still my dad. I love him. It’s fine. It’s all good.”

When Craig played in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he set up Kevin on the range with him at a nearby course. For 3 1/2 hours, Kevin swatted balls with diapers sticking out of his shorts. He was in love.

“I went to pick him up and go back and he just screamed bloody murder,” Craig said. “You hope you get a 2-year-old to focus on something for three minutes. . . . It was awesome.”

Kevin, a USC graduate, grew up in Colorado and wore Broncos colors on this Super Bowl Sunday, getting “Omaha!” chants on the first tee. The “Baby Walrus” now lives in Scottsdale, one stoplight from the tournament course.

“I spend most of my waking hours on the back end of the range here,” Stadler said.

Kevin had plenty of friends in the gallery, though with 563,000 flooding the property this week, they were nearly impossible to find.

Stadler started the day two strokes behind Watson but birdied the first two holes to pull into a tie. He took the lead on the ninth hole but quickly gave it back on No. 11 when a wayward drive led to a prickly situation: Stadler’s ball was suspended in the air on the branch of a buckhorn cholla. He took an unplayable and made double bogey, again giving Watson the lead.

“Wasn’t feeling good with Bubba coming down to those par 5s and drivable holes,” Stadler said. “I was expecting fireworks.”

Instead, a watery par from Watson on the par-5 15th and a bogey on the rowdy 16th put Stadler in a tie for the lead with two holes to play. Watson and Stadler drove the green on the short par-4 17th and both two-putted for birdie from 80-plus feet.

It came down to the last hole, and Stadler piped a perfect drive 344 yards down the middle of the fairway while Watson hit his into the right rough.

Watson, winless since the 2012 Masters, went down after it from 120 yards with a 64-degree wedge and bounded over the green. He recovered nicely, hitting it to 5 feet.

Stadler, in his pocket with par, stood on the green wondering how long the playoff was going to take and how much football he’d miss.

Instead, Watson missed, leaving Stadler to hug his hearty Aussie caddie, Shannon Wallis, as his friends headed back to the house to get the party underway.

“He was a different person today,” said Wallis, impressed with how calm Stadler stayed throughout the day.

When the Stadlers tee it up come April, it is believed they will be the first father-son duo to play the Masters at the same time.

Kevin took many trips to Augusta with his family growing up but has only played the course one time, while in college.

“It was a cold, rainy, wet, miserable day,” Kevin said,” but it was still one of the coolest days I’ve ever had.”

It only gets better from here.

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