Stadler, the 33-year-old son of legendary golfer Craig Stadler, fired a three-under 68 to beat Watson and Graham DeLaet by a stroke. His ballstriking was seamless and nearly perfect all day and he could have run away with the win if his putting hadn’t been so mediocre (but, hey, in the end, it all worked out).
“A little bit, but I miss short putts all the time so it’s kind of a normal feeling for me,” said Kevin, laughing, when asked about the missed opportunities on the greens.
“Yeah, the one on 14 when I hit it in there real close for birdie and missed it I was a little surprised by. I felt good standing over it and I felt like I hit an all right putt. It was only three feet, and I didn’t even hit the hole.
“At that point I started to question it a little bit, but went on to hit it in the water and really had an ugly next hole too.”
Perhaps the best perk of winning for Stadler is a trip to Augusta National for the Masters in April, where he’ll be in the field with his father, who will be competing in the tournament for the last time of his career.
“That was in the forefront of my mind when I was out there,” said Kevin. “He’s obviously getting on in his career. He’s probably only got probably go ahead and assume this will be his last year that he will play there.”
Added the elder Stadler via a phone teleconference: “It’s going to be great for me because it’s really my last one. I kept saying, you know, when he gets in, that’s my last one.
“I’m going to have to get in a little better shape for the next three months. It’s going to be great. It’s awesome. I took him there, oh, ages ago, and I don’t think he’s been there since. Probably 20 years ago.
“It will be great. Awesome week.”
Craig reiterated how proud he was of his son several times and noted that the first win on Tour is always the hardest to snag.
I’m proud of him,” said the elder Stadler. “It’s awesome. I’m happy for him. I think it’s been well-earned, well-deserved, and, you know, he did what he had to do.
“Like I say, he had a few little bumps in the middle there, but he didn’t let them get them down, which in the past was his forté which he got from me. He sucked it up and finished it. He didn’t make a lot of birdies coming in, but Bubba made mistakes.
“On 18 he got a great break. Would have been great if he ended up hitting that putt, but it’s his first one, and the first one is so hard. Once you get that first one, it makes it so much easier down the road because you kind of figured it out. And the next time you say, You know what? I have done this before. So good for him.”
Kevin has come close several times in the last few years, where he wasn’t able to seal the deal, so he agreed with his father.
“I feel like I have gotten a lot better the last couple years, had a couple more chances,” he said. “I have kind of had some ease keeping my card the last few years, but I really haven’t had too many chances to win.
“I had a couple last year I let get by, and to pop one off early in the year is pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, sounds like there might be some father-son tension that Kevin implied…
Q. How do you describe your relationship with your dad? Are you close?
KEVIN STADLER: Hmmm. Yeah, it’s fine. Rather not talk about that, but it’s fine. (Smiling).
Q. I know you said you didn’t really want to talk about your relationship with your dad, but a few minutes ago we had a conversation with your dad, and said he’s your biggest fan whether you know it or not. Do you know that?
KEVIN STADLER: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Obviously I get along with him fine. I’m just not as close with him now as I used to be, but he’s still my dad. It’s fine.
Hmm…interesting, but I guess it is part of growing up — perhaps sometimes you drift from your parents a bit.
Either way, congrats to Kevin Stadler on his maiden victory!
Bubba, who was obviously disappointed with the loss, keeps things in perspective:
Q. Are you disappointed thoroughly, or are you mad at yourself?
BUBBA WATSON: Let’s look at it from the prize money standpoint. If you’re mad about that, then you’ve got issues.
So when I look at this, I look at what it does for my family, look at what it does for my career, and look what it does to help me inspire me to get better so I can win the next one.
(Photo via Allan Henry/USA Today Sports)