SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – For the second straight week, a PGA Tour event ended with Kyle Stanley in tears. This time, they were tears of joy.
Taking advantage of Spencer Levin's final-round meltdown, Stanley rebounded from a devastating loss at Torrey Pines to win the Phoenix Open on Sunday, overcoming an eight-stroke deficit in a comeback as unlikely as his collapse a week ago.
“You go from a very low point to a high point,'' Stanley said. “I'm not sure I expected to maybe recover this quickly. … I think the biggest challenge was seeing if I could put last week behind me. I think I did.''
Stanley closed with a bogey-free 6-under 65, holing a 4-foot par putt on the par-4 18th to finish at 15-under 269 – a stroke ahead of playing partner Ben Crane and two ahead of Levin.
Levin, six strokes ahead entering the round and seven in front after one hole, shot a 75.
“It just wasn't my day, obviously,'' Levin said. “But I gave it away, simple as that. You have a six-shot lead and lose, you gave it away. My hat's off to Kyle. He played a great round. He went and got it. But if you've got a six-shot lead and don't win, then I think it's on the player with the lead, for sure.''
When asked about Levin, Stanley echoed what Torrey Pines winner Brandt Snedeker said about Stanley a week ago.
“I really feel for him, experiencing that,'' Stanley said. “You don't want to wish that upon anybody. He's a very good player, way too good of a player to not bounce back or recover.''
At Torrey Pines, Stanley led by seven shots early in the final round, and still had a four-shot lead as he stood on the tee at the par-5 18th. But his third shot had too much spin and didn't get high enough on the green, spinning down the slope and into the water. He three-putted from 45 feet, then lost to Snedeker on the second playoff hole when his 5-foot par putt caught the right edge of the cup.
“I'm never going to forget that,'' Stanley said. “But I think it makes this one a lot sweeter, just being able to bounce back. I'm kind of at a loss for words. I'm very grateful for the support I've gotten. It's unbelievable. Unbelievable turnaround.''
The 24-year-old former Clemson player from Gig Harbor, Wash., earned $1,098,000 for his first PGA Tour title.
One of the tour's longest hitters at only 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Stanley birdied the par-5 13th and par-4 14th to take a one-stroke lead at 15 under. On No. 13, he powered a 376-yard drive through the desert area to set up the tying two-putt birdie.
“Got a really good break there. Not quite sure how that ball ended up where it did,'' Stanley said. “We only hit 9-iron in there.''
On 14, he hit a 325-yard drive down the middle and holed a 12-footer to take lead.
“Kind of a chip wedge in there,'' he said.
Levin, winless on the PGA Tour, birdied the 14th to regain a share of the lead, but followed with a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 15th.
“I wasn't doing trying to do anything different,'' Levin said “It had to be my mind. You get weird thoughts creeping in here and there. At least, I do. I think it was more my mind than my swing. Just kind of just wanting it a little too much.''
On 15, Levin's drive bounced off the cart path on the right and ended up against a cactus in the desert area. He took an awkward stance near the cactus and got the ball back into the second cut just off the fairway with a hockey-style slap with his driver. He emerged with jumping cholla stuck in his shirt and pants, then hit his third shot in the water short and right of the green.
“I pushed it a little bit, but I guess I didn't hit enough club,'' Levin said. “I thought 4-iron would go over the green and 5-iron didn't carry.''
Stanley parred the final three holes, hitting a difficult recovery shot to 20 feet from an awkward angle under cactus to the right of the green on the short par-4 17th.
“It's not a shot you really ever practice,'' Stanley said. “I had pitching wedge out, Brett (Waldman, his caddie) gave me the sand wedge. Just shut the face and tried to play a little bit of a hook, and it came off perfect.''
Playing two groups ahead of Levin, Stanley birdied five of the first 11 holes to get to 13 under, and within three strokes of the faltering leader.
Levin birdied No. 3 to reach 18 under, but bogeyed Nos. 4 and 6 and dropped two more strokes on 11 and 12 to let Stanley into the mix. Stanley, though, wasn't fully aware where he stood.
“I didn't pay much attention to the leaderboards until maybe four or five holes left,'' Stanley said. “Once I made a couple birdies there on the back nine, I figured I was maybe getting close. But I didn't really think about it too much today.
“I made the mistake of thinking about it probably all of the final round last week. So, this week, I just kind of tried to just let it happen.''
DIVOTS: Crane shot a 66. … Phil Mickelson tied for 26th at 6 under after a 73. “I just couldn't quite get it going,'' the former Arizona State star said. … The crowd was announced at 58,447, bringing the seven-day total to 518,262. A tournament-record 173,210 watched play Saturday.