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Stalling For Time

Great golf courses tend to be venues that produce the most exciting finishes and Torrey Pines in San Diego proved such a venue again this weekend.

Coming to the back 9, on Sunday there were a dozen players in with a chance to win the Farmers Insurance Open.  At the close of play there would be 18 players within four strokes of the winning score.

One of them was not who everyone thought it would be.  Prohibitive pre-tournament favorite and 8 time winner at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods, barely made the 36 hole cut before shooting a colossal 79 in his third round. Woods played 7 holes in the middle of his third round in a shocking 9-over par. Still ranked as the #1 player in the world, there are several players who are in much better form than Woods. Although this was his first Tour event in two months, and the rust may still be on his game, his golf mortality is becoming increasingly apparent. 

A player most certainly in form is 20 year sensation, Jordan Spieth, who seems to be in contention each and every week.  Spieth stormed into contention with a second round 9-under par 63 and was in contention until late in his final round with two bogies on the 16th and 17th holes.  It would be no surprise to see Spieth win multiple times this year.

Long hitting Gary Woodland, whose career has been dogged by a short game that never matched his long game, is playing the best golf of his career after working diligently with his coach, Butch Harmon in the last year.  A winner for the second time in the fall of 2013 in Reno, the immensely talented Woodland is showing a newfound prowess around the greens and is becoming a world class player.  However, a disastrous double bogey on the 17th would derail Woodland who would finish the week at 6-under par.  

A resurgent KJ Choi played a superb final round 6-under par 66 to be the early leader in the clubhouse at 8-under par for the tournament.  He was joined a little while later by 25 year old Australian star, Jason Day, who carded a final round 68. Although he is only 25 years old, it is amazing that Day has only one PGA Tour win under his belt.  Canadian Graham DeLaet, playing in the same group as Day matched his final round with a 68 of his own to be one of the 3 clubhouse leaders at 8-under. 

28 year old America Scott Stallings came to the reachable par 5 18th holes also at 8-under par with a chance to take control of the tournament if he could make a birdie on the storied closing hole. Stallings is a player that seems to make the most of his opportunities to win.  A streaky player who missed more cuts than he made last year (14 in 27 events played), Stallings is a two time winner on Tour having won at The Greenbrier in 2011 and the 2012 True South Classic.

The pond that guards the 18th hole is known as Devlin’s Billabong in “honor” of Australian Bruce Devlin who famously made a 10 in the 1975 Andy Williams Open.  Devlin was at 8-under par playing his 72nd hole with a chance to win before his second shot cleared the water but then agonizingly dropped back down into the water.  After several more attempts, Devlin one-putted for a 10.

Stallings was more fortunate than Devlin as his second shot barley made it onto land and stayed there. Two putts from 35 feet away would give him the outright lead, at 9-under par and a one shot victory.  When one considers that this is his third win on the Tour and players like Day (who has been the runner-up in 3 Majors) have one, it speaks volumes about the talent of Mr. Stallings.