Scott Stallings confers with his caddy, Frank Williams, on Thursday during the first round of THE PLAYERS.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Scott Stallings doesn't remember ever making seven birdies ... and shooting 71. But that's what happened to him Thursday during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Stallings spent about two hours at the top of the leaderboard after making birdies on his first five holes but ended up relinquishing that spot to Robert Castro, who tied the course record with a 63. He ran into trouble on the back nine -- making bogey at the par-5 11th where he drove it left and had to chip out, a double at the 12th where he had to take an unplayable under a bush and a triple at the 16th where he hit two balls into the water.
"It just goes to show about the golf course and really how volatile it is," Stallings said. "Obviously, Roberto played great today, but he would go ahead and tell you that it wasn't very hard to see it go the other way either."
Stallings did manage two birdies on his final nine holes but came home in a disappointing 40. The 71 he shot was the first time Stallings had broken par at TPC Sawgrass.
"You don't have to hit very many bad shots out here on this course to have it bite you a little bit," Stallings said. "... (I am) sitting in the middle of the fairway on 16 at 3 under, and I walk off the hole even par. Wind's kind of swirling around a little bit, and it's tough to pick a club.
"Obviously, I picked the wrong one, but I think that's the beauty of the golf course. It's there for the taking. If you guess right and pick it at the right time and come back and hit two good shots and make birdie on 18. It's kind of the way it went."
The first five holes, though, were much more fun. Stallings drained a 36-footer at No. 1, then made putts of 3, 20, 17 and 5 feet on his next four holes to get to 5 under. The stretch was one shy of the record for consecutive birdies at THE PLAYERS.
"It was just nice to see some putts go in," said Stallings, who has missed his last three cuts. The biggest challenge on Thursday was to stay "level-headed," he said.
"You can't get too low with the lows or too high with the highs, especially on this course," Stallings explained. "Especially you get frustrated with a hole like 16, then you stand on 17 and it's like, man, if I don't get control, I'm going to make a mess of this one too.
"You've got to compose yourself really quick and just expect that the course of a 72-hole tournament weird stuff's going to happen."
Even though he struggled on the back nine, Stallings said he felt the golf course was set up fairly. He was also impressed with the condition, given the Stadium Course absorbed about 10 inches of rain last week.
"They did a great job, no questionable pins or anything like that," Stallings said. "The greens are phenomenal. I think it just goes to show how good the people are that work on the golf course. It's hard to believe this course is under water a week ago."
Scott Stallings got his round off to a hot start on Thursday.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Scott Stallings, who missed the cut last year in his PLAYERS Championship debut, started his round with five straight birdies on Thursday to bolt to the top of the leaderboard early during the first round.
Stallings drained a 36-footer on the first hole to set the tone for the day. He made a 3-footer at the par-5 second, then made putts of 20, 17 and 5 feet on his next three holes to get to 5 under.
Stallings' streak is one shot off the record for consecutive birdies at THE PLAYERS held by Tom Watson (1984), Dave Rummells (1986), Fred Wadsworth (1987), Paul Azinger (1993), Vaughn Taylot (2006) and Sergio Garcia (2011).
Stallings is two strokes ahead of PLAYERS rookies Roberto Castro, Casey Wittenberg and Jason Kokrak. Castro has played seven holes, Wittenberg eight and Kokrak 10.
Rory McIlroy, who has never made the cut in three appearances at THE PLAYERS, is among a large group at 2 under after playing just three holes. He started on the back nine and has birdied Nos. 11 and 12.
Scott Stallings, with new baby in tow, will be spending the weekend at Shell Houston. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas – Finn Stallings.
At six weeks old, he’s the apple of mom and dad’s eye. A sweetheart who pretty much sleeps through the night and figures any hotel room is fine as long as those folks who take care of him are right there next to him.
He’s also a game-changer.
Jennifer and Scott Stallings decided their first-born needed to get adjusted to PGA TOUR life fast, so he’s making the rounds. This week’s Shell Houston Open is his third TOUR stop and dad is starting to wonder if this could be the charm.
“We just decided he was going to be out here, so ... ” Stallings said. There was no time like the present.
Dear old dad missed the cut in Finn’s first two outings, but this week, Scott is 5 under after two rounds and in the thick of things heading into the weekend at the Shell Houston Open.
“For a while it was just Jennifer and me,’’ Stallings said. “And now we’re traveling with an infant.’’
Fatherhood might not have done much for his game the last two weeks, but this week everything’s falling into place. He opened with a 70 and followed it with a 69 that could have been one better if the wind had gusted a second later.
Instead, Stalling had 185 yards to the pin on the 18th and flushed it -- just as the wind came up. Didn’t come close to touching the green.
Stallings shrugged. It could be better, but no complaints. he’s heading into the third round with a chance, something he hasn’t had since he tied for fourth at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
He knows there is a delicate balance out here, whether its as a husband, father or golfer and he’s committed to doing just that.
“I’ve got to learn how to make this work,’’ he said. “I don’t want to be a crappy husband, I don’t want to be a crappy father and I don’t want to be a crappy golfer.’’
And Finn? He just wants to sleep and eat.
Finn got his name because Jennifer, then 7.5 months pregnant, liked it. Scott wasn’t arguing. And Stallings’ caddie Frank Williams – for one – like the nickname. Thinks it sounds like a heck of a name for shortstop.
Or a golfer.
For right now, though, Finn is just trying to get acclimated to TOUR life.
So what is the little guy’s favorite TOUR stop?
“This one,’’ Scott said, “cause his dad is finally playing well.’’
Scott Stallings shot a second-round 78 to miss the cut on Friday. (Gross/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Scott Stallings started the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open in what appeared to be relative safety. He was one shot off the lead.
After shooting a 78 on a dreary Friday on the South Course, though, Stallings won't be playing the final two rounds. The cut came at 1 under and included 87 players but Stallings was one shot in arrears.
"Torrey south 1 scott 0 wow that was rough. On to Phoenix," tweeted Stallings, who had bogeyed the 72nd hole on Sunday to miss the playoff at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
On the plus side of the ledger, though, was Mike Weir. The eight-time PGA TOUR champion shot 75 but he still managed to make the cut for the first time since the 2011 AT&T National, a span of 18 events.
Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old who was making his professional debut, wasn't as lucky. The former Texas standout received a sponsor's exemption on Monday and shot 72-73 to miss by one.
Ben Crane, who won the 2010 Farmers Insurance Open, missed the cut, as did former major champions Stewart Cink, John Daly, Angel Cabrera, Keegan Bradley and Geoff Ogilvy. Japan's Ryo Isikawa, who opened with a 64, followed with a 79 and is also headed home.
Like Stallings, J.B. Holmes took to Twitter after shooting 73-72 to miss the cut. "No matter how long I've played this game i am always learning. Most of the time that this game is freaking hard."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Even with a five-stroke lead, Scott Stallings didn't feel comfortable. He knew PGA West would surrender low scores in the final round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, and he was right.
Stallings withstood the pressure, though. That is, until he aimed that 6-iron toward the flagstick at No. 18, then watched disconsolately as the ball veered left toward the rocks beside the green and trickled into the water.
At the time, Stallings was tied for the lead with Brian Gay, David Lingmerth and Charles Howell III. All was not lost. He took his drop beside the green but to add insult to injury the ball landed in some unwelcome deposits left by migrating Canada geese. Still, Stallings wouldn't make excuses.
"I shouldn't have been there in the first place," he said. "I know that. Everyone knows that."
So Stallings chipped onto the green about 9 feet past the hole. He still had a chance to make the playoff if he could hole the putt -- but it wasn't to be, and Stallings knew he had only himself to blame.
"Coming down the stretch on the 72nd hole, you can't make mistakes like that," he said. "And it stinks, but it's something that I'll definitely learn from."
Looking back, Stallings didn't see a turning point exactly. He wasn't nervous, and he never lost the lead until the final hole. The Palmer Course can be generous, though, and it seemed like everyone but Stallings, who shot 70, was taking advantage.
"Anyone who thinks they're going to run away with it is fooling themselves," Stallings said. "I never ever once said I was running away with it. I was very fortunate to have a very big lead, but it is what it is.
"I played good for three days and it's kind of weird in this kind of marathon, low-round tournament, you're going to kind of catch a skid here and there. And the person that survives the best, wins. And unfortunately, I just hit a bad shot."
Even so, Stallings saw positives. He and his new caddy, Frank Williams, working together for just the seventh event, have formed a bond. He's never before played well on the West Coast, either, so this week in the Coachella Valley was a momentum-builder.
"It's disappointing, but the fact that at the end of the day, I get to play this game for a living," Stallings said. "You're going to have your good days and your bad days, but if you live and die with every shot out there, your career is not going to last very long out there."
After a pair of weekend 66s, Phil Mickelson is building confidence. (Dunn/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The par-5 closing hole always seems to provide drama and it certainly did on Sunday. With a chance to win the tournament, both Charles Howell III and Brian Gay missed eagle opportunities and then could not make their birdie putts. Scott Stallings yanked a 6-iron into the water to make bogey and miss the playoff. The 18th is a wonderful “risk-reward” hole that can expose a player’s nerve.
Warm up: Scott Stallings has an unusual warm-up routine on the driving range. He never hits the same club twice in a row. Most players will start with the wedge, work their way up to the driver and then finish the warm-up with a few more wedges. Stallings works through his bag as if he’s playing an actual round of golf, hitting at specific targets with specific trajectories. Ben Hogan use to work his way through the bag, hitting clubs in the same order he would during the upcoming round.
Hockey: David Lingmerth showed his Swedish heritage with a little hockey. Before the playoff began, Lingmerth turned an iron upside down and used it like a hockey stick, flipping left-handed wrist shots at his caddie with remarkable accuracy.
Short game: Harvey Penick, the great teacher from Austin, warned students to never believe an opponent with a good short game was lucky to win. There is never anything lucky about a good short game. Penick might have been talking about Brian Gay. Gay was 176th on TOUR in driving distance last season but he was also 6th in strokes gained-putting, second in scrambling and fifth in sand saves. He used that short game to make nine birdies in the first 13 holes to take the lead.
Streaky: Scott Stallings played 60 holes without making a bogey and his first hiccup came on a 23-inch putt. Stallings hit a 188-yard 8-iron into the seventh green and missed his 16-foot birdie putt. He then missed the par putt from inside of two feet for his first bogey of the week. Lee Trevino is the last PGA TOUR player to go bogey-free for an entire tournament and win. The Merry Mex was mistake-free in 1974.
Grip: David Lingmerth has a strong grip and usually flights the ball low with a right-to-left ball flight. All that worked against him in the playoff. A seemingly perfect drive, actually resulted in a sidehill-uphill lie which promotes a hook. The combination of a strong grip and uphill lie led to a big hook and his ball splashed into the water left of 18, essentially ending his chances to win.
All-American: Americans simply dominated at Humana. Of the top 22 players, 21 of them were Americans. David Lingmerth was the only non-American to finish inside the Top 20. Granted, there was a limited presence to begin with as only 39 foreign-born players entered the tournament. That said, Americans still dominated this week.
Contrast: The PGA TOUR is filled with different swings and there were two great examples on Sunday. Brian Gay has very little wrist cock and does not generate much clubhead speed, resulting in limited distance. Scott Stallings sets the club and holds that angle through impact creating lots of lag and consequently clubhead speed. Gay’s average ball speed in 2012 was 156.79. Stallings was 179.63.
Most improved: Phil Mickelson must be full of confidence headed to his hometown of San Diego for The Farmers Insurance Open. He started slowly with a 72 on Thursday then rallied for rounds of 67-66-66. Mickelson made one bogey on the weekend.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- We now have a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after Scott Stallings' bogey at the par-4 16th hole.
Stallings, who started the final round with a five-stroke lead, is deadlocked with David Lingmerth and Brian Gay, who have finished their rounds, and Charles Howell III who is about to tee off on the par-5 18th hole.
Gay, who was on the fringe of the 18th green in two, eventually missed an 8-footer that would have given him sole possession of the lead. He shot 63. Lingmerth birdied the 18th to shoot 62 and get to 25 under.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Scott Stallings regained sole possession of the lead when he two-putted from the fringe for birdie at the par-5 11th hole.
The birdie was Stallings' second straight and moved him to 26 under. Brian Gay, who is playing three groups ahead of Stallings, has made nine birdies in his first 15 holes and trails by one.
Rookie David Lingmerth, who tied for 31st last week in his PGA TOUR debut, is also 9 under for the day with two holes remaining. He's 24 under while his playing partner Nicolas Thompson and Charles Howell III are tied, another stroke in arrears.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Don't look now but Brian Gay has joined Scott Stallings at the top of the leaderboard at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Gay rolled in a 3-footer for birdie at the par-5 11th hole to move to 24 under. The birdie was his fifth in the last six holes and eighth of the day.
Stallings, on the other hand, has just made the turn at 2 under.
Kevin Chappell's bid for a 59 ended after he was unable to hole his shot from the fairway at the ninth hole. He ended up three-putting from 39 feet for bogey and tossed the ball into the lake.
Even so, the round of 62 eclipsed Chappell's previous career-best on TOUR by three strokes.
Rookie David Lingmerth and Nicholas Thompson, who are playing together, are both 7 under through 12 holes and 22 under for the tournament. They are tied with Charles Howell III, who is 5 under through 11 holes.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Scott Stallings' bid to become the first player to play an entire tournament bogey-free since Lee Trevino in 1974 has ended.
Stallings three-putted the seventh hole from 16 feet, missing from 23 inches for par. The bogey brought Stallings back to 24 under and his lead is now two strokes.
Kevin Chappell and Brian Gay are Stallings' nearest challengers. Chappell is 10 under for the day with two holes remaining while Gay just made the turn in 30 .
James Hahn, who shared the lead after the first and second rounds is tied at 21 under with another rookie, David Lingmerth, and Charles Howell III.
Trevino did not make a bogey in winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 1974.