“Massive effort, Kyle Stanley,” the 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy tweeted to his 35,000 or so followers after the 24-year-old who blew last week’s Farmer Insurance Open blew that loss into oblivion with a final-round, bogey-free 64 in the final round of the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Ariz. His play only shows again that there’s no such thing as a wasted effort—even a nasty loss--at the highest levels of golf.
And make no mistake, Stanley gave it all he had from the moment he walked off the green after a triple-bogey eight to squander his three- shot lead and plunge into a playoff against Brandt Snedeker, which he lost.
Ogilvy’s tweet was on the money, given the level of effort that Stanley had to put in to just keep playing golf, as he said after his dramatic win. He could have buckled and lost confidence. Instead, to use an old cliché, he got stronger at the broken places. He poured in a par-saving putt of about 12’ on the 16th hole after missing the green well left and leaving himself a touchy bump and run pitch back to the green. He said that was a big putt. It sure was.
But bigger was Stanley’s resilience after his meltdown at the Farmers Insurance in San Diego. It’s too early to be sure that, as many people will conclude, a star was born. But Stanley could indeed be a star, even a superstar. His fellow PGA Tour player Joe Ogilvie, a shrewd observer, had predicted that Stanley would bounce back quickly from the previous week’s debacle. He noted that Stanley’s goal was to get into the top 20 in the world rankings, then into the top 10, and, ultimately, to number one.
Meanwhile, spare a thought for Spencer Levin, the 27-year-old Californian who won three Canadian Tour events in 2007 and 2008. He, like Stanley, took a big lead into Sunday. He, like Stanley, melted down while trying to win his first PGA Tour event. His self- destruction wasn’t as sudden. It developed, almost inexorably, as his already fast swing got faster and as he lost his rhythm. It was hard to watch and it obviously had to be tough for Levin to go through.
But look what happened to Stanley. Maybe Levin should be the favourite for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which starts Thursday.
Tiger Woods will be playing his first PGA Tour events of the year, and Canadian interest will expand because Mike Weir will be returning to action after seven months away from competition. What will Levin learn from what happened to him Sunday? That remains to be seen.
There’s a lot of like about Levin, as there is about Stanley. (How can you not admire a golfer who doesn’t even have a cell phone or use e- mail? He’s a heavy smoker, too. The guy’s retro). Anyway, both golfers epitomize the modern young tour player in that they go at each shot hard. Stanley’s game does seem more modulated, and he showed a few different speeds on Sunday in Scottsdale. Levin really comes out of his shoes, but at the same time, he, like Stanley, has a lot of imagination. They’re each old school. They can make the ball dance and move it high or low, right to left or left to right. That makes watching them fun. They’re creative. Levin will probably need to learn to take something off his swing, and find a go-to shot when he’s under pressure. Maybe he will. Here’s hoping he does.
One thing stands out. The Farmers Insurance Open and the Waste Management Open were exciting. They’ve added a ton of spice to this year’s PGA Tour, as early as it is in the season. Sure, it will be all about Woods at the AT&T, even though it shouldn’t be. Levin is in the field, while Stanley is taking a break.
He broke through Sunday after breaking apart the previous Sunday.
Levin broke apart Sunday in Scottsdale. Golf can be brutal. Golf can be beautiful. The PGA Tour has provided the brutal and the beautiful the last two weeks. More, please.