Snedeker prevails on emotional day at Farmers Insurance OpenJanuary 29, 2012
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Kyle Stanley's eyes were filled with tears waiting to tumble down his cheek.
It didn't take long. Not after someone asked Stanley how he would deal with the kick in the gut he'd just taken as he squandered a three-stroke lead on the final hole of the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday.
Stanley's chin trembled as he tried to compose himself. He blinked several times and his index finger flicked away a tear from the corner of his right eye, the first of many to come. He took a deep breath before he spoke.
"I don't know right now," Stanley said quietly and deliberately. "It's tough. I mean, it's really tough to take."
Brandt Snedeker, the man who ended up denying Stanley his first PGA TOUR victory in the playoff that ensued on Sunday, knows how Stanley feels. Only his emotional moment came after the final round of the 2008 Masters where he was tied for the lead when he made eagle on the second hole but faltered with eight bogeys coming home.
The question that evening at Augusta National was essentially the same as the one Stanley fielded. Suddenly Snedeker could contain himself no longer, burying his head in a white towel and finally letting go. "That says it all," Snedeker finally managed to blurt out before making a quick exit into the darkness.
Or, as Paul Azinger would later tweet, "unfortunately, heartache is a part of sports."
"I don't think anybody should feel embarrassed about showing their emotions," Snedeker said Sunday evening. "I think that's part of who you are. That's how much we care about it. If (Kyle) didn't show his emotions, I'd be a little shocked. I'm sure that was a pretty tough way to lose a golf tournament. He's going to have a tough night. There is no way around it. But he can be better from it.
"The thing I hope he doesn't do is dwell on it. I hope he moves past it pretty quick."
Still, even Snedeker, who won for the third time on the PGA TOUR and moved to second in the FedExCup, had a hard time wrapping his brain around the dramatic shift in emotions on Sunday at Torrey Pines.
He was in the media center, "completely content," as he put it, with what he thought was a second-place finish while Stanley was playing the 18th hole. Snedeker had done what he could, shooting a 67 which tied for Sunday's low round, but he had given himself too much ground to make up with Saturday's 74.
Or so he thought.
When Stanley's third shot sucked back into the water that guards the front of the green, it admittedly "piqued" Snedeker's interest. After Stanley found the back shelf of the green with his fifth shot, Snedeker decided to head back to the practice green, just in case. A three-putt later and suddenly the two were heading back to the 18th tee for a playoff.
The two traded birdies on the first extra hole, Snedeker finding the fairway bunker and tangling with a divot before hitting his third shot to 3 feet. The big-hitting Stanley was over the green in two but managed to coax his chip to 2 feet to prolong the affair.
Snedeker then ended the playoff when he got up and down for par from beside the TV tower at the 16th hole. He converted from just over 5 feet while Stanley missed his from 5 feet, 3 inches. After he hugged his caddy, Snedeker walked over and told Stanley he was sorry. There was nothing else to say.
"You never want to see anybody go through that," Snedeker said. "I don't care who it is, not even your worst enemy on the planet. Golf is such a funny game, and to have that kind of lead coming into the last hole and not to win is tough. It will be a tough night for him.
"But he's an unbelievably talented player, and the sky's the limit for him. And I hope he does not beat himself up too much over this. He should learn from it. I wouldn't be surprised if he's contending again really soon."
That's what Robert Garrigus did. He was leading Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson by three strokes two years ago at the St. Jude Classic when he triple bogeyed the 18th hole and ended up losing in a playoff. He won the Childrens Miracle Network Classic later in the year.
"If anyone knows how Kyle Stanley feels its me," Garrigus tweeted, adding that he will win more than once "before his time is up." He "just needs to keep grindin sorry bud."
As disappointed as Stanley was, he put up a brave face. Sunday marked his second runner-up finish in just 41 starts on the PGA TOUR, and he'll get another chance next week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Still, the tears were just under the surface as he bravely faced a situation he had never before imagined.
"I know I'll be back," Stanley said. "I'm not worried about that. It's just tough to swallow right now. I just need to be patient. One of my goals coming into this year was to just keep putting myself in position, and I'll do that."
While Snedeker acknowledged he "kind of backed into" Sunday's victory, it was hardly "tainted" as one reporter dared suggest. Snedeker took advantage of the opportunity when it came to him, posting his second straight top-10 in as many starts this season and positioning him to realize his goal of making the Ryder Cup team.
Not bad for a guy who was on crutches less than two months ago, rehabbing after his second hip surgery in less than a year.
"I feel fantastic," Snedeker said, the day's 180-degree shift in emotions evident in his broad smile. "... I fully believe this is going to be the best year of my career."
It's certainly off to a good start.