Kevin Stadler claims maiden victory on the PGA Tour
Post by sports writer Derek Clements
IT HAS been a long time coming, but 33-year-old Kevin Stadler finally joined his father, Craig, as a champion on the PGA Tour.
Stadler has come close many times without being able to close the deal and it was appropriate in many ways that his first victory should come in Phoenix, a tournament that could have been made for him, played on his home course at TPC Scottsdale.
The tournament's title kind of tells you everything you need to know. The Phoenix Waste Management Open was never going to be an event attended by men wearing suits. It attracts huge crowds - a record 563,000 people over the course of the week.
They are not quiet. Even when players are ready to play their shot, there is a constant hubub in the background. Compare it with the scenes at Augusta during The Masters.
The 16th hole measures 128 yards and is surrounded by grandstands containing people who have, erm, been refreshing themselves all day long. There are some 20,000 of them and they cheer every player on to the tee and jeer any shot that fails to hit the green. One of the stranger customs to have developed is that, because the tournament coincides with SuperBowl weekend, as the players make their way towards the putting surface, they throw American footballs into the crowd. Poor throws are also jeered. They also throw merchandise into the gallery.
Stadler is built like his father (in other words, he is a BIG man) and has a fairly industrial swing, and just kind of fits into the scene at Phoenix. This is not meant as a criticism. And he is by no means alone. Pat Perez, Graeme DeLaet, Ricky Barnes, Patrick Reed, Chris Stroud, Bubba Watson and Ryan Moore are similar types of players, and surely it is no coincidence that they all found themselves in the mix too. You play best at venues where you feel comfortable.
It's the sort of tournament that John Daly should have owned. Sadly, he preferred to take the route favoured by the spectators at the 16th.
Watch the majority of the fans as players strike the ball and you will see that they don't actually make any attempt to follow the flight of the ball. They are happy enough just to catch a glimpse of their heroes and whoop and holler.
For much of the final day it looked like Bubba was going to return to the winner's circle for the first time since his memorable victory at The Masters in 2012. He became known as Blubber Watson after that, on account of the fact that he broke down and cried in the immediate aftermath of his win, and for weeks and months afterwards - or so it seemed.
And some of his golf on the final day nearly reduced him to tears again. He started the day two shots in front of playing partner Stadler and was in control until he dumped his drive in the water at the 15th. He then missed the 16th with a nine iron, putting the ball in a bunker and was unable to get down in two.
Watson and Stadler both drove the 347-yard 17th and two-putted for birdie to move them to 16 under par, one shot ahead of DeLaet.
So it all came down to the 18th. Stadler hit his 110-yard approach to the back right pin to 10 feet. Watson drove into the right rough and hammered his 120-yard second over the green. He bladed his shot from the trampled rough into the bank next to the green and it ran 5 feet past the hole. After Stadler missed his birdie try and tapped in for par, Watson's par try slid by the left side.
The title was Stadler's - at his 239th attempt.
He birdied the par-4 ninth to take a one-stroke lead over Watson, but fell behind with a double bogey on the par-4 11th. Stadler took a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie after driving into a cactus plant and missed a 4-foot bogey try.
The win earned Stadler a spot in the Masters -- a tournament his father won in 1982. The Stadlers are the ninth father-son combination to win on tour.
DeLaet bogeyed the 15th after hitting into the water, but rallied with birdies on the final two holes. He also tied for second last week at Torrey Pines. Hunter Mahan and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama tied for fourth at 14 under. Mahan, the 2010 winner, finished with a 68, and Matsuyama shot 69.
"It's been a long time since I won anything," Stadler said. "It's pretty special."
Image credit - PGA Tour Facebook page
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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