Scott Stallings double-bogeyed the 15th hole on a Sunday for the second time in three weeks.
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
There was an unusual sight at the HP Byron Nelson Championship last month, Jimmy Johnson was walking the golf course just to watch Harris English play. Johnson is Steve Stricker’s caddie and occasionally works for English. Johnson called Harris a “plodder with fire” and predicted a victory in the near future.
Johnson bragged about English’s even demeanor and the ability to endure a rough patch of golf and rebound with birdies. All that was on display at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. English had a pair of three-putts in the final round; he bogeyed the last two holes on the front nine to turn in 37, then answered with birdies at both 10 and 11. He secured the win with a two-putt birdie on the 16th hole and another birdie at the 17th. English led the tournament with two eagles, 18 birdies and not a single double bogey.
“A plodder with fire.” Caddies always know best.
History: If Scott Stallings had a case of déjà vu on the 15th hole, there was a reason for the flashback. Two weeks ago, during the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Stallings led the tournament only to take a double on the 15th hole. He had to write down another 6 on Sunday at the 15th after chunking an iron into a hazard.
Preparation: Phil Mickelson entered the tournament with a two-fold purpose: He intended to win and use the event as preparation for the U.S. Open. He almost accomplished both. Mickelson was obviously rusty, going out in 38 on his first nine holes. After an opening 71, Phil carded rounds of 67-65-67. He made 19 birdies this week, third best in the tournament. How confident was Mickelson? He yelled, “Get in,” as his approach shot targeted the flag on the 18th hole. I’d say Phil heads to the U.S. Open full of confidence and prepared to win.
Front nine: Apparently, Stallings comes to the course focused and ready to score. In his last three events, Stallings has started his Sunday rounds turning 29-31-31. That’s not just a final-round trend. When it happens three weeks in a row, at a trio of difficult golf courses -- Colonial, Muirfield Village and TPC Southwind -- that’s not a coincidence. Unfortunately, Stallings also had a back nine trend this week as well. He played those holes in 2 over, including bogeys on two of his last four holes in the final round. Stallings was 12 under on the front and 2 over on the back. He played well enough to win each of the last three weeks but had trouble closing out the tournaments.
Peeking: I hope Shawn Stefani looks at this week as a positive learning experience and I hope he looks at a tape of the final round. He made three straight bogeys at 8-9-10 and he “peeked” on his putts, particularly at the 10th. It’s tempting for a golfer to move his head, to see if the putt is going into the hole. When a golfer “peeks,” the contact is seldom solid and the ball rarely goes into the cup.
Big hitters: TPC Southwind has a reputation of rewarding long hitting players and this week did nothing to change that theory. Stallings averaged 313.8 yards per drive. The top of the leaderboard was littered with long hitters: English, Mickelson, Ryan Palmer, Billy Horschel and Dustin Johnson.
Rally: Palmer spent the weekend trying to rally from a bad first day and almost pulled off the comeback. Palmer was 3 over after his first three holes on Thursday. He started the tournament par-bogey-double bogey, and then made just two more bogeys the rest of the week. Palmer bogeyed his 11th hole on Thursday, the 17th hole on Friday and then had a clean card the remainder of the tournament. He played the last 37 holes without a bogey.
Winner, winner: Pardon me for a self-delivered pat on the back. I gave you Stallings to win this week and told you English would become a first-time winner with my midseason predictions. As always, the prognostication is solely for entertainment purposes. Please, no wagering.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here