The victory belonged to Brandt Snedeker, but the story that everyone was talking about belonged to Kyle Stanley.
What seemed like an inevitable dream victory for the 24-year-old Stanley as he stepped up to the 18th tee box on Sunday at Torrey Pines turned into a nightmare in mere minutes.
Sitting at -19, and leading by three strokes over Snedeker, Stanley’s third shot, a sand wedge, spun sharply back past the hole, down the slope and into the water on the front of the green.
After putting his fifth shot within about 30 feet, the Gig Harbor, Wash., native then three-putted, scoring an astounding 8 on the hole to drop back to -16 and into a playoff with Snedeker.
In the end, Snedeker parred the second playoff hole (par-3 16th) and Stanley’s five-foot par put was pushed to the right, which gave Snedeker his third career PGA Tour victory.
“I was sitting in (media room) literally an hour ago wondering if I was completely content with a second-place finish,” Snedeker said. “Then when I had the second chance, I really had to get myself refocused and realize that the tournament was anyone’s now. I’m just floored right now. I had no idea I was going to be in this room right now for a second time. So I’m excited.”
A visibly emotional Stanley spoke to the media following the tournament.
“I played really well all week. I obviously didn’t finish the way I wanted to,” he said. “I don’t know. I thought I hit a good shot on 18, but I spun it too much. I didn’t think it was going to spin that much.
“It’s really tough to take,” he continued, choking back tears. “It’s a pretty straightforward par-5. I can probably play that hole 1,000 times and not make an 8.”
Both players birdied the first playoff hole, the 18th. Snedeker did so after birdieing the same hole in much the same fashion during regulation, both times rolling a lob wedge back toward the hole and to within three feet.
But Stanley was undeterred.
He went for the green in two and put his 3-wood effort just off the green in line with the flag. He too hit his third shot to tap-in distance, and the pair headed the the 16th tee for the second playoff hole.
Stanley’s 6-iron came up roughly 50 feet short, while Snedeker got a stroke of fortune, as his 5-iron bounced once on the green and struck the CBS television tower. He was able to take a free drop and was lucky to be able to place his ball, after his drops rolled down a slope.
From there, the Memphis, Tenn., native chipped to within four feet, and drained his par putt. When Stanley missed his, Snedeker claimed his first win since The Heritage last April. He also earned a cool $1.08 million for the win.
“You never want to see anybody go through that. I don’t care who it is, not even your worst enemy on the planet,” said Snedeker of Stanley’s meltdown. “It will be a tough night for him. I told him I was sorry. There’s really nothing else you can say. You feel bad for anyone to go through that.”
However, it’s a little unfair to say that Snedeker backed into a win. He shot a stellar five-under 67, tying for the lowest round of the day with Bud Cauley. Snedeker made six birdies and only one bogey on the day. Trailing by as many as nine strokes at one point in the day, he kept plugging away.
“I never gave up hope (of winning),” Snedeker said. “I realize there are a ton of golf holes out there, a lot of bad stuff can happen, and I just – you just never know what can happen.”
Sadly though, much like Paul Lawrie’s British Open win over Jean Van de Velde in 1995, the victor will be overshadowed by the failings of the man who finished second. Unlike Van de Velde however, the golf world expects much more from Stanley in the near future.
“I know I’ll be back (in a winning position),” Stanley said. “I just need to be patient. One of my goals coming into this year was to just keep putting myself in position, and I'll do that.”
“Kyle is an unbelievably talented player, and the sky’s the limit for him,” he said. “And I hope he does not beat himself up too much over this. He should learn from it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s contending again really soon.”
In other news, Rickie Fowler (Murietta Valley HS) ended the final round as the highest finisher among San Diego-area golfers. Fowler shot 69 to finish at -9. Pat Perez (Torrey Pines HS) finished at -8. Chris Riley (Patrick Henry HS) finished at -6. Charley Hoffman (Poway HS) shot even par to finish at -3.