Scott Stallings isn’t your household name, but if you’re a golf geek, then you are familiar with the 27-year-old Tennessee resident (a native of Worcester, Ma and Patriots fan.). Well, everyone should pay more attention to Stallings, who is leading by five shots heading into the final round of the Humana Challenge.
He shot nine-under 63 at Nicklaus Private on Saturday to get to twenty-two-under for the tournament. He was the only player that was bogey-free after 36 holes and he kept that streak going with another flawless round.
As we know, no lead is safe on the PGA Tour. Seven players successfully came back from six or more strokes in the 2012 season. However, five shots is a nice cushion to have going into Sunday. I mean, it’s completely possible that one or two guys, who are as far back as eight or nine, will post a 62 or 63, and Stallings has an awful day and shoots even par.
There are a bunch of players who are so far back that they might get hot and Stallings might feel pressed. It’s a long shot, especially since he’s been in pressure situations before and knows what to do and how to win (if that makes sense)
He also has a veteran caddie on his bag this year, Frank Williams, who was Stewart Cink’s longtime caddie for, like, forever.
Stalling, who earned his way on the PGA Tour via Q-school in 2011, has won twice, once each year — the 2011 Greenbrier Classic and the 2012 True South Classic, where he broke the news that his wife, Jen, was pregnant during his Golf Channel interview. Jen, who traveled with Scott to the Hyundai ToC and Sony Open — is actually due to give birth in the next week or so.
Funny thing is Stallings hasn’t exactly had the best memories or success at this event.
“West Coast hasn’t been very good to me at all,” said Stallings. “And my rookie year, I missed my first five cuts, and last year I got hurt at this event. I was out…”
“I played La Quinta for one round (last year) and I played with Carl Pettersson, and the first round after nine holes he said, “Either you’re going to withdraw or I’m going to withdraw. I can’t watch this anymore”
What’s more impressive about Stallings’ career so far is that he was injured for a good chunk of the season. It was here in La Quinta, California, where Stallings’ injuries woes started to plague him. He tore cartilage on his ribs.
It wasn’t until Memorial that he was 100% healthy, but he prematurely came back at Bay Hill because there was no way he was going to miss playing in the Masters.
“Augusta was the only week of the whole injury that I took pain medicine,” said Stallings. “I took a painkiller. I mean nothing illegal or anything like that. It was prescribed, but no doping or anything like that, but I took Celebrex every day. But that was the only week I took pain medicine and my doctor is, “Man, I really don’t know if you need to play or this or that.’
“I said, “Man, you put me in a body cast, I’m going to play Augusta.” And I said, “Tomorrow is not promised. That could be my one and only opportunity to play in the tournament.”
What’s more, Stallings is in prime position to join the elite club of players on the PGA Tour — Dustin Johnson (7), Rory McIlroy (6), Anthony Kim (3), Webb Simpson (3), Keegan Bradley (3) — under the age of thirty with three or more victories. Not bad company, huh?
If Stallings fires at least four-under, then my guess is he’ll cruise to the winner’s circle. He set some goals at the beginning of the year in a meeting with his management team at Crown Sports (aka the Sea Island Mafia).
One of them was to make the Match Play. With a win, he’ll not only like achieve that feat, but he’ll also earn another trip to Augusta — and this time, healthy.
Aside: It’s a boy. Jen and Scott already picked out a name already. Bradley Finn, but they’re going to call him Finn.
Why didn’t you name him Finn Bradley? I asked half-jokingly.
“I wasn’t part of that,” said Scott. ‘My wife said, ‘We’re going to name him Finn, you can name him whatever first name you want.”
Scott chose “Bradley,” after his swing coach Brad Rose.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)