We love playing golf, and we enjoy watching golf on the telly. And last Monday we watched as 24-year-old Kyle Stanley blew a three-shot lead on the final hole of a tournament on the PGA Tour whilst poised for his first-ever win on tour. A win would have earned him his place on tour for two years, around a million US dollars, and the opportunity for endorsements, invitations to tournaments etc. It would have been a career-changing moment. However Stanley ended in a tie with Brant Snedeker, and lost the tournament in a sudden-death playoff. He looked crushed.
A lot can happen in a week. At the Phoenix Open yesterday, Stanley started the final round eight shots behind runaway leader Spencer Levin. PGATour.com describes what happened:
Golf is a game about redemption as much as anything else. It's also one full of deja vu moments.
The two of them are as different as two players can be. Stanley is outwardly cool and calm with a vicious yet controlled swing. Levin is a bundle of nerves who churns through cigarettes, wears his emotions on his sleeve and can swing out of his shoes.
Yet they're both linked by what's happened each of these last two weeks.
Stanley blew a three-shot lead on the final hole and eventually lost at Torrey Pines ... only to turn that experience into a learning one that would lead to a victory Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"I didn't pay much attention to the leaderboards until maybe four or five holes left," admitted Stanley, who rallied from eight shots back for his first career win on the PGA TOUR. "I didn't really think about it too much today, but I made the mistake of thinking about it probably all of the final round last week.
"You can't really teach somebody the experience aspect of it, and I think being in contention last week, I think the more times you get there, the more comfortable you get."
Stanley's caddie, Brett Waldman, was a big reason why. He's new to Stanley's bag after leaving Camilo Villegas for a failed attempt on the Nationwide Tour last year. During the final round in Phoenix, Waldman helped keep Stanley in the moment.
"I don't know what I'd do without that guy," Stanley said.
Meanwhile, Levin, who began the day with a six-shot lead, knows pretty much exactly how Stanley felt a week ago.
Now the question is: Can he learn from it too?
"It was a weird feeling today," said Levin, who'd never led after 54 holes before. "It's almost like you're kind of wanting the holes to run out real quick.
"Next time, I'll just try to maybe stay a little more patient, and try to have a little more fun. I just didn't have any fun today. I was trying to rush it and get it over with. When I'm playing well, it's fun, I'm joking around, laughing, everything is good. I've got to find a way to get in that mindset next time I'm in this situation for sure."
We love stories like this. Kyle Stanley showed fantastic guts and composure to recover from a lapse that might have set his career back for several seasons. Now his place on the tour is certain for the next two years at least, he's got money in his pocket, and a terrific story of redemption. He can just go out and play for the rest of the PGA Tour season without the pressure of having to perform week after week just to hold his place on tour.
As for Spencer Levin; he's philosophical; read on:
If there's a proverbial silver lining for Levin, it is Stanley, who, like David Toms a year ago at THE PLAYERS Championship, lost a playoff one week only to turn around and win the following week.
"I guess it shows that you can recover from it," Levin said. "I think I will."
We wish both players well for the rest of the season.