SAN DIEGO (AP) – Kyle Stanley was so good for 71 holes at Torrey Pines that his performance drew comparisons with Tiger Woods.
When it was over, he was mentioned in the same breath as Jean Van de Velde.
Brandt Snedeker won the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff that never seemed possible when Stanley, who led by seven shots early in the final round, hit a sand wedge into the water and three-putted for triple bogey on the 18th hole.
“It's not a hard golf hole,'' Stanley said, his eyes glassy from tears. “I could probably play it a thousand times and never make an 8.''
The playoff ended on the second extra hole when Snedeker, after his 5-iron bounced off a TV tower behind the par-3 16th green that kept it from going into the canyon, chipped to 5 feet and saved par.
Stanley three-putted from 45 feet, missing a 5-footer for par.
“It's just crazy,'' Snedeker said. “To get my mind around what happened the last 30 minutes is pretty hard to do right now. My heart is out to Kyle. I feel bad for him to have to go through this.''
Crazy doesn't begin to describe it.
Stanley was so dominant at Torrey Pines that he had a six-shot lead when he made the turn at 21-under par, just one shot from the tournament record last set by Woods in 1999 before the South Course was beefed up for the 2008 U.S. Open.
Snedeker was so certain of being the runner-up that after a tap-in birdie on the par-5 18th for a 5-under 67, he got in a cart and drove up the hill to the media center for an interview. He settled into his chair and looked over at the television, where Stanley was in the 18th fairway, 77 yards from the hole.
Stanley could have taken five shots from there and still captured his first PGA Tour event.
“I knew I needed to shoot something low,'' Snedeker said, one eye on the TV. “But I just was too far back. Kyle had too big a lead.''
Just then, Stanley's wedge landed behind the hole and zipped off the green, tumbling slowly down the bank and into the water.
“Uh-oh,'' Snedeker said, before he started doing some math.
“That's three and four,'' he said referring to the wedge and the penalty shot. “He's hitting five. How many shot-lead does he have?''
None by the time Snedeker got down to the putting green to warm up for a most unlikely playoff.
When it ended, Snedeker removed his visor and hugged his caddie, Scott Vail, who walked toward Stanley and said, “I'm sorry.''
There was not much else to say.
“He's going to have a tough night,'' Snedeker said. “There's no way around it. But he can be better from it. The thing I hope he doesn't do is dwell on it. I hope he moves past it pretty quick.''
Stanley is no stranger to heartache. Last summer, he was two shots ahead at the John Deere Classic until he bogeyed the final hole from a bunker, and Steve Stricker closed with two straight birdies to win.
This loss, however, put him in the wrong kind of company.
It was reminiscent of Van de Velde at Carnoustie, who made triple bogey on the last hole of the 1999 British Open and lost in a playoff; of Robert Garrigus, who made triple bogey on the last hole of the St. Jude Classic in 2010 and lost in a playoff; and even of Frank Lickliter at Torrey Pines, who three-putted from 12 feet on the 17th hole in 2001 to make triple bogey in the third playoff hole in losing to Phil Mickelson.
“I know I'll be back,'' Stanley said, pausing to allow the words to come out of his mouth. “It's tough to swallow right now.''
For 71 holes, Stanley had shown the power, poise and polish of a rising star. He was like a machine, really, his emotions hidden behind sunglasses as he crushed one 300-yard drive after another, and then calmly rolled in par putts of 12 feet, 5 feet and 8 feet late in his round to keep his cushion.
Snedeker was in the group ahead of him and took his lone bogey of the final round on the 17th hole. That put Stanley up by four shots as he walked over to the 18th tee to play the easiest hole at Torrey Pines.
A perfect drive. A short iron to a good distance to hit the green with his wedge.
“We tried to lay it up close enough so that we wouldn't put that much spin on it,'' Stanley said. “Thought I had a pretty good shot, but just had too much spin.''
He took his drop, hit wedge that landed on the top shelf, and his 45-foot putt down into the bowl of the green stayed 3 1/2 feet above the hole. He missed the putt to the left and had to sign for a 74.
Both players made birdie on the 18th in the playoff – Stanley went just over the back of the green with his second shot – and Snedeker closed him out on the second extra hole.
“This one I kind of backed into,'' Snedeker said. “You never like winning a tournament that way. But you do like winning.''
He offered condolences, but no apologies.
“If anybody wants to see the trophy, it will be at my house the rest of my life,'' Snedeker said. “It's not a tainted win. Winning out here is hard to do. There have been a lot of guys that have had trouble closing out. And I'm sure Kyle will end up winning plenty of golf tournaments in his career. He's got that kind of talent.''
Snedeker now has three PGA Tour victories, coming from at least five shots behind in all of them.
He also knows emotion, having first gained national attention after the 2008 Masters, where he had a roller coaster round and wound up with a 77. Speaking to the media, he buried his face in a towel and wept openly.
So to hear that Stanley's eyes were wet, that his lip was quivering and that he could barely get out a sentence without choking on emotion, was not a surprise to Snedeker.
“I don't think anybody should feel embarrassed about showing their emotions,'' Snedeker said. “I think that's part of who you are. That's how much we care about it.''