Dustin Johnson and Bobby Brown are among the many who feel badly for Kyle Stanley’s untimely implosion at the Farmers Insurance Open last Sunday. Stanley entered the last hole in regulation with a three-shot lead before imploding with a triple-bogey and then eventually losing in a playoff against Brandt Snedeker.
During the difficult last few days, Stanley has received an outpouring of messages and support from family, friends, fellow players, including Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, who hit an incredible shot and followed it with a great putt for birdie to beat Stanley at the 2011 John Deere Classic, and even an unexpected text from the Gonzaga men’s basketball coach, Mark Few.
“(Coach Few) just told me to keep my head up and that I played tough, and that down the road I’m going to be stronger for it,” said Stanley, who has never met him, on Tuesday during his presser.
“That’s why I thought that was so cool. I’ve been watching Gonzaga play basketball since I was three feet tall. I live and die with every game they play. I try not to miss any of them. So that was real special to hear from him.”
Of course, Stanley would rather be receiving texts congratulating him for his spectacular maiden victory, but sports wouldn’t be sports without experiencing both heartache and euphoria.
Now Dustin is no stranger to making a bad swing or brainless mistake at just about the worst time possible, particularly in majors (left-hand-chip-gate, bunker-gate, etc.), but not when he’s had a three-shot lead in the last hole in regulation. However, he’s experienced his fair share of mishaps and can sympathize with Kyle Stanley. DJ’s longtime caddie, Brown, also feels for Stanley, whom he actually worked with from last May to the end of the 2011 season when he and DJ took a “break.”
DJ didn’t catch the telecast live because he and Brown, who reunited after their eight-month split, were already on the plane. However, they followed the action on Shot Tracker.
“It was just brutal, it’s just tough,” he said. “Obviously I’ve been in similar situations, but I haven’t had anything like that, but I’ve gone through my own…mishaps, whatever you want to call it. You feel bad for the kid. He had a great week and he’s playing well. You gotta take what you can positive from it and move on.
“It was a great week for (Kyle), he played well. He didn’t really make any mistakes on the last hole. S#!t just happened. It’s funny you get in a situation like that and it’s hard but it’s golf.”
DJ also defended Stanley and his caddie Brett Waldman’s critics.
“Everyone can say that looking back on it (to not layup or to hit more club), but they’re not standing there in that situation hitting that golf shot at that moment, so it’s hard to say that. He was trying to land it on the back shelf, he just didn’t land it there. What are you going to do?”
Just a random aside: After Waldman’s one-year stint on the Nationwide Tour as a player, where he struggled, he decided to pack up his clubs and return to his old job as a caddie. During the off-season, when Brett spoke to Camilo Villegas, his last boss before he quit to pursue his dream, it didn’t appear as if returning to his former employer was still an option. So, Waldman called Bobby and asked if he’d send him Kyle’s number.
“I said, ‘Absolutely. You’d be perfect for him,” recalled Bobby. “(Brett and Kyle) went and spent three days together. And Brett came back and was like, ‘Wow, dude, this kid’s wedge game is as good as I’ve ever seen.'”
Dustin and Kyle’s games are somewhat similar — both hit the long ball, strike it well, yet aren’t the best putters in the world — but their personalities couldn’t be more polar opposite. Kyle is a perfectionist that can’t get enough of practice and sometimes is too hard on himself. Which is also what makes him so good, not to mention extremely talented.
One thing Bobby did notice with Kyle was a change in his pre-shot routine on the greens, saying it looked like he rushed it a bit, like he wanted to get it over with. Sure, he dropped a bomb for par, but he was getting quick.
“That putt on 16, he looked like he got into his stroke quicker than he had before because I remember when I was caddying for him, every time after you gave him the read, he’d bow his head, like he was visualizing the putt going in and taking a deep breath,” said Brown. “I don’t remember seeing that on 16, but he’ll be back.”
In DJ’s unfortunate incidents, there was no doubt he’d let it slide right off and bounce back. “He’s a freak like that,” said Brown.
Indeed. Most people would have been scarred for life had they endured half of DJ’s mistakes and setbacks, but his laid-back attitude gives him the ability to let things slide right off. Meanwhile Stanley has worked on trying to improve his attitude and Brown saw him make a turn for the better at Greenbrier last year.
“He’s hard on himself,” said Brown. “He’s really hard on himself, but I’ll tell you, he turned the corner last year at Greenbrier when he broke up with his girlfriend Joanna Saleeby and that just kind of freed him up a little bit. I don’t know if that was coincidence or what.
“Then his attitude improved because for a while he would shut me out when things weren’t going well. He’d hold the club out and pout like a five- or six-year-old would. Finally we came home and I said to him, dude, you can’t come to the golf course with this kind of attitude ever again. You’re costing yourself strokes. So the very next week after that, every time he’d make a bogey, he’d smile at me and say, ‘C’mon, B, c’mon, I need to get fired up.’
“From then on, you could see how well he was playing…he’s going to be back…but it was just heartbreaking.”
Some feel Kyle got a little unlucky with the third shot that spun back in the water — that’s golf, though.
“I went through like two bottles of wine watching the replay,” joked Bobby. “I just kept drinking and thinking I can’t believe this. I think he got screwed a little.”
Anyone who knows Stanley and his tremendous talent knows that he’ll break through for that elusive first victory sooner rather than later — he’s just too good — and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if that opened the floodgates to winning regularly.
“I’ll tell you what, as well as I know him,” said Bobby, “I think he’s going to come into this week (at the WM Phoenix Open), shake it off, and say, ‘Hey, I played my balls off, I gave it 110%.’
“If you would have asked him at the start of the week, hey you’re going to finish second and make $650,000, would you take it, no questions asked? Kyle would probably say no, I want to win.”
Exactly. Just about any player will tell you he’ll take the W over a million-dollar check any day. I know I would.