Stanley Makes Comeback for the Ages

Kyle Stanley was in the depths of despair last Sunday evening. At that time, the 24-year-old from Gig Harbor, Wash., had just blown a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in the Farmers Insurance Open with a triple-bogey on the par-5 18th at Torrey Pines, then lost on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to Brandt Snedeker.

But Stanley wasn't down for long. On Sunday in Arizona, the former Clemson All-American closed with a 6-under 65 to finish at 15-under 269 to win the Phoenix Open.

Carding three birdies on the front nine and three more on the back - interspersed with clutch pars, especially over the final four holes, Stanley notched his first victory on the PGA Tour and earned an invitation to the Masters in April.

When asked at greenside how he recovered so quickly, the mild-mannered and soft-spoken Stanley said, ""That's golf. You need to accept the ups and downs. You can't get too high or too low. I am thankful for the support I've received from so many people . . . I keep playing my game and have a short memory."

Of that fan support, he said, "It really meant everything," adding he's also had a lot of positive reinforcement from family and friends. Shortly after the win was secured - when third-round leader Spencer Levin didn't hole out for eagle on the par-4 closer at TPC Scottsdale to force a tie - Stanley, with tears in his eyes, murmured, "I want to thank my mom and dad. They've done a lot for me . . . I'm speechless."

Levin, meanwhile, experienced the same devastating reversal of fortune that Stanley underwent in San Diego. The 27-year-old from Sacramento entered Sunday with a six-stroke lead but finished with a 4-over 75.

Levin had two bogeys and a birdie on the front nine, but his undoing came on the inward half when, still with the lead, he posted a birdie, two bogeys and a double on the par-5 seventh when his approach found the pond fronting the green. He tied for the largest final-round lead lost in PGA Tour history.

Levin ended up in third at 271, while Ben Crane carded a 66 to finish as the runner-up at 270. Crane, a native of Portland Ore., went out in 3-under 32 and came home with a 34 thanks to three birdies and a bogey on the par-3 16th.

D.J. Trahan took fourth at 272 after a 66, while tied for fifth at 273 were Brendan Steele, who shot the low round of the day, a 7-under 64, Kevin Na (65) and Bubba Watson (70).

Webb Simpson started the day in second place behind Levin, but closed with a 1-over 72 to share eighth at 10-under 274 with Bo Van Pelt (67), John Rollins (69) and Jason Dufner (70).

Clearly, the day belonged to Stanley, who overcame an eight-shot deficit at the start of the final round to earn the biggest paycheck of his short career, $1.098 million. He also became the first player since David Toms at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial to lose in a playoff and come back the very next week and get a victory.

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