American Scott Stallings fired a final round four-under-par 68 to post nine-under 279 to separate himself from the gridlock behind him to win the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South Course Sunday afternoon. The five players tied on 280, eight-under who shared second place were K.J. Choi, Jason Day, Graham DeLaet, Pat Perez and Marc Leishman.
After posting seven of his 19 birdies in the final round Sunday, Stallings was the first player to post nine-under and the only player to post nine-under as he claimed his third victory in his young career. As the leaderboard piled up throughout the day on Sunday, Stallings and his putter kept him in the conversation. His driver was ice cold as he hit only 28.57% of the fairways on Sunday but his decent iron play saw him hit 12 of 18 greens. The story was on the greens as he gained a whopping 4.725 strokes on the greens on Sunday and led the field in strokes gained-putting for the tournament. Entering the week, Stallings was 131st in strokes gained-putting in 2014. In his first season on TOUR, 2011, he checked in at 136th in that same category. In 2012 he dropped to 171st and followed that up last season with his career-best posting of 68th.
Torrey Pines South Course showed its U.S. Open-like teeth on Saturday as the leaders fell by the way side and par was an excellent score. The rough was that; rough. The greens were firm and slick but Stallings ground out an even-par 72 to stay in the conversation. How good was his putter this week? He hit 50% of the fairways on 55% of the greens on Saturday and still found a way to post par. #grinder. Sunday saw the course soften up as the greens were watered and some of the pin placements were more accessible and Stallings took advantage. He went out in 34 and his final birdie of the week saw his inward nine of 34 seal his third trophy on TOUR.
Scott Stallings is the definition of frustration in the world of fantasy golfers. Sure, he joins a very exclusive list of 20-somethings that have won three or more times on TOUR but there’s a reason he wasn’t on most gamers radar this week. After finishing T11 in Q-School in 2010, he teed it up 28 times his rookie year in 2011. He was cut 15 times but found a victory at The Greenbrier and a solo third at Tampa Bay. Those were his only two top 10s but he did have seven top 25s in the 13 weekends he did see. In 2012, he was cut 14 times in 27 tournaments but again found a way to win, at the time, the True South Classic, T7 at RBC Canadian and T5 in Orlando. He also had eight top 25s in the 12 weekends he played. ARE YOU NOTICING A PATTERN, THEN? In 2013, he was cut 14 times in 27 events yet posted four top 10s which included a three-week-run of T4, T4 and T2 in June. He finished with six top 25s. The reason he wasn’t on most gamers radars this week was simple: he’s played five events in 2013-14 and MC in three of them and his best finish is T47. In two starts at FIO he MC both times and his two rounds on the South Course were 74 and 78.
Stallings has shown us over the last few years that when he sees the weekend good things can happen on a multitude of layouts. He’s played well at TPC Southwind and Memorial, demanding tracks, and his shown his value in birdie busters as he almost won at Humana last year to go along with his victory at The Greenbrier and True South Classic. Fantasy gamers look for consistency and known quantities. Stallings hasn’t demonstrated that consistency yet but he’s only 28 and has three wins just four years on TOUR. That’s impressive ANY way gamers break it down. I’d endorse Stallings for the season based on the history I provided above but make sure PATIENCE is in your vocabulary before signing up here!
Check out this company that Stallings is keeping with his third victory in his 20s:
Dustin Johnson: 8 wins
Rory McIlroy: 6 wins, two majors
Webb Simpson: 4 wins, one major
Keegan Bradley: 3 wins, one major
Anthony Kim: 3 wins
Scott Stallings: 3 wins
With this victory, Stallings collects $1,098,000, 500 FedExCup points and has now gained the attention of gamers moving forward in 2014!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 10 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (2), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and now Scott Stallings have kept the perfect start rolling for the crimson, white and indigo.
Jimmy Walker is the only first-time winner in 2013-14. There were 12 of them last season. Walker is the only two-time winner as well. Stallings has now won in three of his first four years on TOUR.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. Through 10 events, five players that have held the 54-lead have gone on to lift the trophy. Gary Woodland couldn’t add his name to that list this week as he was alone at eight-under entering Sunday’s final round.
Since 1995, only four winners at the FIO have NOT been major champions. They have all been since 2009 (Watney, Crane, Snedeker and Stallings)
In the last 12 years all of the winners at FIO have been blue passport holders, i.e., Americans.
As Rob and I spoke about in depth during our chat on Wednesday, the North Course played almost FOUR-AND-A-HALF shots easier than the South Course. Yahoo! gamers must be aware of this for 2015 and beyond.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
This is the part of the column where I list the winners and their age. Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua. Walker added title No. 2 to catch the youngsters last week but that lasted one week. Scott Stallings, 28, joins Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) as the twenty-somethings on the board. The Young Guns now have six of 10 wins to start the season. The Old Guys were led this week by 43-year-old K.J. Choi and his T2.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
K.J. Choi: His masterful 66 on Sunday was the day’s best and moved Choi up 25 spots to T2. The South Korean ran in eight birdies against two bogeys and posted his best finish, T2, in 12 trips to La Jolla. His T2 backs up his T9 from last year and reinforces the fact that solid ball-strikers need to be in play during this event. Choi finished the week T8 in GIR and his 18 birdies were T5. Choi has had a very steady start to 2013-14 with finishes of T14, T15 and T20 in his first three events. This is Choi’s best finish since 2011 solo second at the AT&T and he’s pocketed less than $1 million in each of the last two seasons.
Graham DeLaet: The Canadian ball-striker extraordinaire rode his excellent iron play to T5 in GIR and took his spot with the other four players on eight-under. DeLaet was T55 in fairways hit so that makes any questions of rust valid but his approach play was in mid-season form. His putter was also cooperating as he finished the week 11th in strokes gained-putting. DeLaet’s last three finishes on TOUR are T7, T6 and T2 this week. He’s completely legit folks and he loves this event as well. His last seven rounds here are par or better and after MC in his first two trips, he’s now finished T9 and T2 in the last two years. Whoa, Canada!
Jason Day: Gamers have expressed frustration that Day doesn’t win enough, who does anyhow, but there is no doubting his game. Also, he’s proven again that the tougher the track, the better chance of posting a high finish is quite real. His iron play saw him finish the week at T3 in GIR and T2 in the tournament. Gamers, Day’s value has been demonstrated at Augusta and U.S. Opens so remember that moving forward. He’s fearless of the big stage but gamers are just waiting for more payoffs. Be patient. He’s not going anywhere. Also remember he won the 2003 Junior World Championship on this course when making out rosters in 2015.
Pat Perez: Speaking of Junior World Champions, Pat Perez won his at Torrey South in 1993 and his father is the starter on the South Course as well. Perez finally paid gamers off during this even as he finally broke par on Sunday for the first time in four years. The other three years saw him finish no worse than T22 but not any better than T20. His final round 70 saw his three rounds on the South add up to seven-under for the week. Imagine if he put a number up on the North Course on Friday! Perez played great as he was T19 in fairways, T17 in GIR and sixth in strokes gained-putting. He has a new coach, new swing thoughts, new fiancé and a new attitude. He’s now six out of seven on the new season and has T8 (Sony) and T2 this week in his last three. #GiddyUp for the ride on the West Coast swing!
Marc Leishman: The final T2 of the bunch absolutely flushed it this week from tee-to-green. He only made FOUR bogeys, racked up 53 pars and hit 77% GIR on the week and those were all tournament-leading figures. He backed his solo fifth at Sony up this week with T2 so he won’t be entirely disappointed at his recent results. He needed to hole a field shot on the 72nd hole to create a playoff but his wedge spun just wide of the target. His closing birdie threw him into the five-way-tie. Don’t forget about this Aussie moving forward as well as his career is trending in a positive direction.
Charley Hoffman: Mr. San Diego posted the low round, 67, on Sunday that included a hole-in-one on No. 3 as he raised 20 spots to finish T7. He drove the cover off the golf ball, as he’s been doing most of the year, and posted his second T7 in his last six starts at FIO, tying his best-ever finish. The San Diego native posted his third top 10 finish in six starts this season and is well on pace to catch the five top 10s that he posted last year.
Ryo Ishikawa: His game improves the closer he gets to the hole and that was on display this week just north of San Diego. The “other” young Japanese player has almost been lost in the Hideki Matsuyama storm over the last year but his T7 finish this week should re-open the eyes of gamers who might have lost track of his progress. Ishikawa led the field in birdies with 20 and that was buoyed by his No. 1 ranking in putts made per GIR. The more impressive number this week was finishing T22 in GIR after T55 in fairways. In seven events this season he now has a T2, T5 and T7 to compliment a T21 and T25. Folks, he’s only 22 and he’s already rewarded gamers who jumped on his back after his Web.com playoffs performance last fall. He has six top 10s in 10 events stretching back to the final three events of those playoffs. He’s hot, period. In three starts at the FIO, he’s posted T13, MC and T7 this year.
Will MacKenzie: In five previous visits to this event, Will Macca made one cut and shot 80 twice. Here’s another lesson to gamers that course history cannot be the ONLY predictor/resource that is used; multiple factors figure in every week. In seven events this season the 39-year old has been on fire with finishes of T9, T15, MC, T12, MC, T13 and T7 this week. His ranking in the all-around category is currently numero uno on TOUR and he did nothing this week to jeopardize that as he was T2 in fairways, T12 in GIR and 24th in putts per GIR. The question for gamers moving forward will be is he going to continue this pace down the road. His last full season on TOUR was 2010 so I’m going to invest while he’s hot.
Trevor Immelman: As I mentioned on Twitter Sunday afternoon, Immelman was DFL last week at the Humana on three of the easiest courses on TOUR. This week, he was tied for the lead with 12 holes to play in his final round on a course that was averaging close to 75 strokes per round. In five events this year he had T21 and T20 to go along with three MCs so this T10 should give him some confidence moving forward. I’m not sure I’m going to hitch my wagon up to him just yet. I just hope his brother, Mark, who works for PGATOUR Radio, is ok after being fleshed this afternoon by an errant iron shot. #familybusiness
Seung-Yul Noh: Another young Far Eastern player that has shown flashes of brilliance in his burgeoning career, Noh is still trying to put his swing and game back together. As a rookie in 2012, he racked up 24 of 28 cuts and had 13 top 25s on his way to 40th in the FEDEXCUP Points race. Last year, he was cut in 13 of 25 events and was 110th in the standings. He was five of six entering the week but his best finish was only T27. His problem has been the tee ball and the putter but this week his flat stick finished 10th in strokes gained-putting. This led to only six bogeys, good for T2 for the week. I’ll see where this finish leads but he hasn’t had back-to-back top 25s since the 2012 Playoffs. Soon we’ll know? Maybe. Maybe not.
Russell Knox: After not keeping his card after the 2012 season, Knox headed to the Web.com to hone his game for a return in 2013-14. As he was splitting time between the tours last summer/fall, his game started coming together. In his last 11 starts on TOUR, he’s seen nine weekends and his WORST finish is T32. The good news/bad news is that this is his first top 10 in that stretch. He’s Brendon Todd of the ball-strikers! Time to push him up the rankings based on those numbers!
Justin Thomas: Welcome to the party, youngster! The former Walker Cupper from Alabama is currently a member of the Web.com Tour but he was happy to take his sponsor’s exemption this week and run with it. And run he did, all the way to T10. He was second in the field in birdies, 19, and second in strokes gained-putting. Not bad for a kid who left Alabama after his sophomore season and a national championship. He won six times in college and was named national player of the year in 2012. Not a bad pedigree. Pay attention. Check Rotoworld.com for his status updates on TOUR.
Brad Fritsch: “Big Boy” is now two-for-two at Torrey in two career starts and both have found him in the top 10 after his T10 Sunday pairs with his T9 from last year. Interestingly, this is his first 10 top since that T9 last year. A premium driver of the golf ball, Fritsch could be used on the tougher, tighter courses on TOUR but the resume is a little thin for gamers to heavily invest at the current moment.
Gary Woodland: The good news for gamers is that he has now put himself in great position on Sunday four times since August. It looks like Butch Harmon’s tutelage is paying off but Woodland has let a few chances slip through his fingers recently. He held the 54-hole lead at The Barclays last August but finished T2. He also fell to Ryan Moore in a playoff at the CIMB in October before not being able to hold his 54-hole lead Sunday. I’ll take the guy who’s getting in position over and over again any day. I mentioned that I wasn’t as high on him as others in the fantasy world. I’m going to have to reevaluate moving forward since he’s been P2 and T2 in his last four starts on TOUR.