The PGA Tour and officials at the Farmers Insurance Open decided Sunday to relax the conditions on the South Course at Torrey Pines, and seven players starting the final round within two shots of the lead, created a giant scramble,with an exciting finish to a tournament that was becoming difficult to watch. Gone were the favorites, Phil Mickelson withdrew after 36 holes due to back pains, and defending champ, Tiger Woods failed to make the secondary cut after a 79 on Saturday.
After the dust settled on Sunday afternoon, it was Scott Stallings who made a birdie at the 18th hole to break out of the pack at -8 under par, and all waiting for a playoff. The victory was the third in Stallings’ career, and came just in the nick of time to secure a berth at Augusta.
The 28 year-old Stallings found himself in the 18th fairway, 222 yards from the green, and needing a birdie for a win. A situation he was in only a year ago at the Humana Challenge where he hooked his approach shot into the water because he didn’t allow for the hanging lie. In the heat of the moment, he had over-looked one of the details.
This time, the youngster from Worcester, Mass considered all of the options before he hit the perfect four-iron to set himself up for the guaranteed birdie, and the win.
“I don’t think one would happen without the other,” Stallings said. “I actually thought about 18 at Humana the whole time on 18 today. Not that I was like, `Oh, don’t hit it in the water.’ But it was, `Just make sure you pay attention to everything that’s going on.'”
I think the key to the wild finish at Torrey Pines was K.J. Choi. The aging Choi, went out early and shot a -6 under par 66 on Sunday, to set the -8 under par number everyone had to shoot for. The remainder of the field knew what they had to do if they wanted to win. The 66 was the best score on the South Course all week.
Finishing in second place with K.J. Choi were Canadian, Graham DeLaet, and Jason Day who both matched the four under 68 that Stallings carded, San Diego native, Pat Perez, and Australian, Marc Leishman who started his day in second place, and played in the final group.
The South Course at Torrey Pines, which is the longest on the PGA Tour was set up this week to play almost as tough as it did during the 2008 US Open. After everyone struggled on Saturday to just make pars, the pins and tees were set up on Sunday to relax the field a bit. The rough and Poa Annu greens still took their toll, but there were birdies out there, and Scott Stallings found enough of them to get a win.
Third-round leader, Gary Woodland shot a two over par 74 on Sunday, and finished tied for 10th place at -6 under par. Rookie of the Year, Jordan Spieth shot matching 75’s on Saturday and Sunday to fall into a tie for 19th place at -4 under par.
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