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."