Stanley’s Big Comeback Wins WM Phoenix Open

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2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open

It took Kyle Stanley just one week – seven long days – to erase the darkest moment of his career with the brightest. His first-ever win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open didn’t come easy, but as the resilient Stanley can attest, they hardly ever do.

Or just look to Spencer Levin, the latest casualty of a major meltdown on Sunday. Unbelievably, while Stanley had blown a five-shot lead in the final round to lose the Farmers Insurance Open, Levin one-upped him this time around by tossing away a six-shot advantage at the TPC Scottsdale.

Welcome to the gut-wrenching world of the PGA Tour, where Stanley emerged from under a cactus and out of a party tent on his last two holes to record one of game’s great reversals of fortune.

“That’s golf. It’s a crazy game,” said the 24-year-old Stanley, a second-year pro from the small town of Gig Harbor, Wash., who came from eight shots off the pace to equal the third-largest comeback in Tour history.

“I think you need to accept the fact that there’s going to be highs and there’s going to be lows. I’m just fortunate I have such a great team around me, especially my mom and dad. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

Stanley grabbed the lead early on the back nine of this sunny Sunday, and ended up pouring in six birdies without a bogey for a 65 and winning total of 15-under par 269. Just as key, he made five straight pars to finish out his round and hold off a hard-charging Ben Crane, who ended up in second place, one shot back after a 66.

“I hit a couple of squirrel-ly tee shots, but my recovery shots were fantastic,” said Stanley, who miraculously chipped out from under a cactus and onto the green at No. 17, and then took a free drop before curling a pitching wedge onto the green at No. 18.

“I think the biggest challenge was seeing if I could put last week behind me, and I think I did.”

So did his moment in the sun erase the recent past? Stanley shook his head and said: “Not really. I’m never going to forget that, but I think it does make this one a lot sweeter.”

Thus the onus of the biggest demise of 2012 falls on Levin, a 27-year-old Californian who also was after his first victory in his third year on Tour. Unlike Stanley, who collapsed on the final hole at Torrey Pines with a triple bogey, Levin’s fall was slow and steady, as he birdied the third hole of the day to get to 1-under before three bogeys and a double spelled 75 and third place.

“You have a six-shot lead and lose, you gave it away. My hat’s off to Kyle, he played a great round,” conceded Levin, who followed up his 62 at Torrey Pines with a 63 in the second round at the TPC Scottsdale – the two best scores on Tour the past two weeks – but still couldn’t win.

Asked what he takes from the experience, both his and Stanley’s, Levin just shrugged in disbelief.

“That’s pretty awesome from what happened last week, to come back and win the very next week,” he said. “That shows he’s a hell of a player, obviously. “I guess it shows that you can recover from it. I think I will.”

Adding to the weirdness of the day, since the start of the 2010 season, no player has more rounds in the 60s on Tour than Levin, with 111. But when he needed one the most, the number was nowhere to be found.

But like Stanley said, it’s a crazy game.

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