For an event that lost Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson earlier than expected, Sunday's final round of the Farmers Insurance Open didn't disappoint with a bunched-up and chaotic leaderboard over the final two hours. Ascendant American names like Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland were in the mix all afternoon, while trendy major picks and international stars like Jason Day, K.J. Choi and Graham DeLaet all made surges to take a late co-lead. CBS manically jumped from hole to hole, with as many as six guys tied for the lead at 8-under with just three holes to play. But it was Scott Stallings, already a two-time winner on Tour, getting the biggest victory of his career and locking up his second Masters berth.
Stallings was the first player to get into the clubhouse at 9-under, ending the chances of the impressive group at 8-under -- Choi, Day, DeLaet -- that came in ahead of him. He needed a birdie at the last, a gettable but lengthy par-5, to break the logjam and he pulled it off ... barely.
Stallings went for the green in two, which isn't the riskiest play but does present some trouble with a pond protecting the front of the green. We saw Tiger Woods come up short on Saturday and put his ball in the hazard, and that started his surreal seven-hole stretch at 9-over that knocked him out of the final 18 holes. Stallings ripped his second shot at the 18th, exhorting the ball to turn and get up over the pond. His ball barely made it, and settled on the small patch of thicker grass banking the pond. From there just off the front of the green, he would get up and down for birdie to secure his spot at 9-under.
Behind Stallings was Woodland, the last best hope to add a birdie and get to 9-under for a playoff. But the long-hitting Kansan was wild off the tee all day, finding the rough more often than the short stuff and that club ended his chances late Sunday. Woodland pulled driver on the longer par-4 17th hole, and promptly pulled it right and into a hazard. He took a drop and hit his third shot from over 170 yards away, amazingly getting it up from the right rough and onto the front of the green. But he still needed to bomb one in just to save par, so he aggressively blasted it past the hole and ended up three-putting for double bogey to effectively end his chances.
Spieth was probably the biggest name on the leaderboard. The 20-year-old Texan phenom held the midpoint lead after running away from playing partner Tiger Woods, and a win would have made him the first at his age with two Tour victories since the early 1930s. But he got a little sloppy on the back nine, sailing one sand wedge over the green at No. 16 for his second straight bogey to drop off the pace. Even though he couldn't close on Sunday, it's clear that Spieth will be around the first page of the leaderboard all season and be a favorite to earn a spot on the American Ryder Cup team.
Marc Leishman, who was playing in the final group with Woodland and Spieth, had the final chance to catch Stallings but he needed to hole out for eagle on No. 18. Leishman put his ball above the hole and nearly spun it in to force a playoff but the desperation shot buzzed past the cup on the left side.
The winner Stallings is a solid pro and someone who's secured his status on Tour with three wins. His form comes and goes, but it will be unsurprising to see him factor repeatedly throughout the season. He's now set for Augusta in April, and this win against a field that, at one time, included Woods, Mickelson, Bubba Watson and other loaded names is a signature victory -- no offense to his True South Classic and Greenbrier Classic titles.
The Tour will now head to TPC Scottsdale for the third stop of the West Coast swing, the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It will be a different, much more rowdy scene and hopefully Mickelson's back will be healthy enough for the ASU alum to defend his title.
Here are the final results from the top 70 who got through to Sunday:
|Place||Player||Score||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
|T37||Charles Howell III||-1||70||72||70||75|
|T37||Tyrone Van Aswegen||-1||66||76||76||69|