Victory alters Stallings' travel plans in big wayJuly 31, 2011
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Scott Stallings had planned to head to Reno, Nev., Sunday night. In fact, tournament officials were holding the charter plane at the gate until he and his wife could make the 15-minute drive over to the Greenbrier Valley Airport.
Stallings' final destination changed, though, after he won The Greenbrier Classic in a playoff. He's now headed for Akron, Ohio to play in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational instead of the Reno-Tahoe Open.
"I kind of felt bad those guys were waiting on me," Stallings said, almost shyly, as he adjusted to his new-found status as a PGA TOUR champion.
Stallings certainly showed a flair for the dramatic, too, at The Old White TPC on Sunday. The rookie, who was playing in the final group of the day, made a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to join Bill Haas and Bob Estes in the playoff, then beat them with a 7-footer on the same hole in sudden death.
With the victory, which came in just his 21st start, Stallings becomes the 10th first-time winner of the season, as well as the sixth rookie to break through in 2011. The $1.08 million he earned may have bumped the fresh-faced 26-year-old into a different tax bracket -- but truth be told, Stallings was most excited about the 500 FedExCup points that came along with the victory.
Stallings, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, jumped 62 spots to 26th in the season-long race for the $10 million bonus. That increased security is particularly important to the native New Englander who dearly wanted to make field for the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, which is played in Foxborough, Mass.
"One of the biggest goals we had was to get to Boston," Stallings said. "I was born just outside of the city (in Worcester), and I'm huge, huge, diehard Red Sox fan. To have them have the pairings party at Fenway (Park) ... I told them just to have an opportunity to go in the gates at Fenway any time I can, I would be signed up for as many as I could."
Stallings, who earned a degree in business management from Tennessee Tech, has spent time chronicling his rookie season in a blog for BNET.com, which is the CBS Interactive Business Network. The blog is called the "Chief Executive Golfer" and Stallings has mused on everything from having lunch with Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial Tournament to, most recently, having no more excuses for not being in shape.
After he posted his only other top-10 finish of the season at the Transitions Championship, the title on Stallings' blog was "How I went from invisible to slightly famous." Sunday evening, the now really famous blogger was at a loss to say what the next headline might be -- but Stallings couldn't wait to read it.
Winner's SpotlightScott Stallings captured his first PGA TOUR title and moved 26th in the FedExCup standings.
"My editor, I'm sure I'll talk to her tomorrow," he said. "She has no idea all the things that come along with this but I'm sure there will be a pretty awesome story that comes out."
It would be hard to top the one Stallings "wrote" on Sunday at The Old White TPC, though.
He showed the poise of a veteran like his mentor Kenny Perry in rebounding from an "absymal" 38 on the front nine to make six birdies on the back. The playoff berth was hard-fought, too, after Stallings's tee shot at the 17th hole hit a tree and dropped into the water. So he had to birdie the 18th, and as it turns out Stallings made the life-changing putt -- twice.
"I just closed my eyes right before when I was reading the putt and just took a deep breath and visualized the ball going in the hole," he said. "After the ball went in I don't really know what happened. It was all a blur."
Stallings, who has his wife's initials and a Bible verse tattooed on his left ring finger, will be able to sort things out soon, though. In addition to the detour to Akron next week, Stallings will be playing in the PGA Championship that immediately follows, as well as next year's Masters, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship -- a tournament he waited out unsuccessfuly as an alternate in May.
The invitation to Augusta National will be particularly coveted. Maybe it was karma, too. Stallings used a green Masters pencil to record the numbers on his scorecard on Sunday. He had gone to the season's first major as a spectator for a day in 2009 but vowed never to return until he had played his way into tournament.
"I've wanted to do this since I was a little kid," Stallings said, positively beaming, and it was clear the reality was even better than the dream.