LA JOLLA, Calif. -- The only thing Scott Stallings could think about on the 18th hole Sunday at Torrey Pines was that one of the last times he was in a position to win a tournament he hit it in the water.
“My caddie said, ‘Let’s see what you've got,’” Stallings said.
It took all he had, too.
Stallings’ 4-iron from 222 yards barely reached the green on the par 5 before he two-putted for birdie to break free from a crowded leaderboard that at one point had 19 players within two strokes of the top. He shot a 68 to finish 9 under for the week and then had to wait it out to see if it was good enough.
Stallings finished one shot clear of five others and the win moved him from 166th to 10th in the FedExCup standings.
It might not have happened, though, if not for a mistake he made in the final round of last year's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
After blowing a five-shot lead at the start of that day, Stallings needed a birdie on the par-5 18th at PGA West to force a playoff. Instead, he watched as his 6-iron from 220 yards sailed into the left rough, rattled around the rocks and bounced into the water.
The shot bothered Stallings so much that he returned to the same spot during a practice round there two weeks ago.
“It was a very similar lie, too,” Stallings said. “I just tried to learn from the situation. The shot I hit at Humana last year was solid, I just didn't account for the lie. I kind of got so wrapped up in the moment, I didn't really kind of take into account what was happening, I just kind of saw my shot and hit it and wondered why it went left.”
Why Stallings even returned to the Farmers Insurance Open was a bit of a head-scratcher to begin with. He missed the cut in two previous trips here and didn’t play well on either occasion.
But he moved from Tennessee to spend the winter in Arizona so he could work on his game this past offseason.
“I said I'm going to play as much as I possibly can on the west coast and just see if it made a difference,” Stallings said.
Clearly it did. Stallings made seven birdies in the final round, including the one on 18, where there was never a thought of laying up.
“You don't get very many opportunities to win golf tournaments on this TOUR,” said Stallings, now with three career wins. “As a player, all you ever want is chances. Humana was unfortunate last year hitting it in the water on the 18th hole and missing out on an opportunity to win, but I was playing to win.”
This time he did.
SPIETH INJURES ANKLE
After playing his first two rounds in a combined 10 under, Jordan Spieth stumbled to the finish at Torrey Pines, shooting a pair of 75s on the weekend.
“My ankle’s pretty messed up,” said Spieth, who added that he tweaked it during his back nine on Friday. “I had no control over the golf ball today whatsoever with any club. It was tough.”
Spieth, who at one point had a share of the lead Sunday before making four bogeys over his final 12 holes to tumble into a tie for 19th, hit just 12 fairways over the last two rounds -- including seven on Sunday.
“I didn't feel pain at all, so I don't blame it on that whatsoever,” Spieth continued. “But whatever it was, I wasn't loading correctly and therefore I started going left really with every club.”
The 20-year-old isn’t sure exactly how he injured the ankle, but it wasn’t the only thing he was distracted by. A cameraman stepped on Spieth’s ball behind the sixth green. He was given a drop and chipped to 5 feet but missed the birdie putt on the par 5.
“The cameraman stepped on my ball back on 6 when I guess it was a really good lie,” he said. “When the putt missed it just got in my head.
“All in all just really wasn't mentally ready to win this week. But it's early in the season and I can draw on some confidence from the first two rounds.”
WOODLAND COMES UP SHORT
Gary Woodland was in the mix most of the day. He was one shot behind until he hooked his tee shot on the 17th into the hazard (photo below). He then three-putted from 45 feet for a double bogey and would close with a 74 to finish tied for 10th.
PEREZ’S BITTERSWEET DAY
Pat Perez came to the 18th hole knowing he needed to make eagle to force a playoff with Stallings.
The only problem was where his drive landed -- 245 yards from the hole on the par 5.
“I'm either going to hit in the water with a rescue club, (or) I'm going to hit 3-wood over the green,” he said.
So Perez chose to lay up, hoping he might be able to hole a wedge from the fairway (Billy Horschel did just that earlier in the day).
“I figured if I got to about 90 yards I could try to spin it off the hill and make it,” said Perez, who thought for a moment the ball was going in until it stopped a couple of feet away from it. “It didn't spin enough, which is incredible with that much slope it didn't spin enough.”
What did Perez in, though, was leaving his chip on the par-3 16th 11 feet from the hole. He missed the putt and made bogey.
The runner-up was bittersweet for Perez -- it was the San Diego resident’s best finish since a second in Reno in 2011, but he also fell short at a tournament that he badly wants to win.
Perez grew up here and used to pick balls on the driving range at Torrey Pines, when he wasn’t busy playing the course. His dad has also been the first tee announcer for the tournament for more than a dozen years.
“This is the one I want to win more than anything in the world,” said Perez, who had a share of the lead for part of the afternoon. “When I woke up this morning I really thought I was going to get it done. I would like to be in that position again here.”