Editor’s note: In “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) kept saying, “Who are those guys?” That line reminds me of the PGA Tour some weeks, including this last one.
ON SUNDAY I WAS FLIPPING from the U.S. Senior Open to the Greenbrier Classic. I hoped Olin Browne would hang on to win his first major. I also was curious to see who would kiss the trophy at The Greenbrier at Old White.
As it turned out, it wasn’t Anthony Kim or Webb Simpson or Bill Haas. The Greenbrier Classic winner in a sudden-death playoff was PGA Tour rookie Scott Stallings, the sixth rookie to win on the circuit during the 2011 season.
So this bears repeating: Who are those guys? Or, rather, who is this guy? More on that in a moment.
Playing with AK, the 54-hole leader, Stallings knocked his drive out of bounds on the 71st hole and made a bogey that could have put an end to his hopes. But the 26-year-old rookie sank a dramatic birdie on the par-3 finishing hole to crash the playoff with veteran Bob Estes and Haas.
Then, like a relief pitcher running in from the bullpen in the late innings of a tight ball game, the excited Stallings sprinted into the playoff after signing his scorecard. Yes, he actually ran. Crazy fun stuff.
“Running from the back of the green to the tee to go to the playoff is something I’ll never forget,” said Stallings. “I’ve been working with a trainer for about a month, so he should be proud.”
The pumped-up rookie lofted another beautiful short iron on the 168-yard par 3 and the ball landed in nearly the same spot as before. After Haas and Estes missed their longer birdie putts, Stallings sank the seven-footer for his first PGA Tour win and high-fived and bear-hugged his caddie.
If you’re in the dark on Stallings like I am, here’s the sheet on him.
Stallings was an all-state high-school golfer who went to Tennessee Tech, where he won seven tournaments and was an All-American in 2006. He played the mini tours and missed making it through PGA Tour Qualifying School by a single shot in 2009. After finishing 53rd on the Nationwide Tour money list in 2010, Stallings went back to Q School last fall and walked away with his PGA Tour card after a T11 finish.
The rookie missed his first five cuts this season. A breakthrough came at the Transitions Championship, where Stallings finished third after Kenny Perry helped him get into the event with a sponsor exemption. (Perry and Stallings have the same agent.)
Now, with his first tour win, Stallings is in Akron this week for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and in Atlanta next week for the PGA Championship. He has gone from 562nd to 119th in the Official World Golf Ranking and from 88th to 26th in the FedEx Cup standings. That’s quite a sprint.
−The Armchair Golfer
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