Sunday, April 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Kevin Stadler wins Phoenix Open

Kevin Stadler

Kevin Stadler smiles as he gets handshakes from members of the gallery as he walks off the 18th green after winning the Phoenix Open golf tournament on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Smallrus finally hoisted a big PGA Tour trophy.

Kevin Stadler, the 33-year-old son of major champion Craig “The Walrus” Stadler, won the Phoenix Open on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory.

Stadler won when playing partner Bubba Watson missed a 5-foot par putt on 18.

“It was a little weird way to win a golf tournament,” Stadler said. “I fully expected him to make the putt. I would have rather made mine to win it.”

Stadler closed with a 3-under 68 for a one-stroke victory over Watson and Canadian Graham DeLaet. Watson shot 71, and DeLaet had a 65.

“He beat me,” Watson said. “He’s a great player.”

Stadler won in his 239th tour start, earning a spot in the Masters — a tournament his father won in 1982. The Stadlers are the ninth father-son winners in tour history and will be the first to play in the same Masters.

“It’s going to great for me because it’s really my last one,” said Craig Stadler, a 13-time PGA Tour winner with nine Champions Tour victories. “I kept saying, ‘When he gets in, that’s my last one.’ … I’m proud of him. It’s awesome.”

Kevin Stadler finished at 16-under 268 at TPC Scottsdale, his home course. Raised in Colorado, he played in Denver Broncos colors, wearing an orange shirt and blue pants and hat.

What was he thinking when Watson was standing over his par putt on 18?

“How long the playoff was going to take and how long until I can watch the football game?” Stadler said.

After Stadler and Watson each saved par after hitting into the water on the par-5 15th, Stadler tied Watson for the lead with a par on the par-3 16th hole. Watson hit into the front left bunker on the stadium hole and his 6-footer missed to the left.

At the 347-yard 17th, they each drove the green and two-putted for birdie from 90 feet — Watson holing out from 18 feet and Stadler from 5.

On the par-4 18th, Stadler hit his 110-yard approach to the back right pin to 10 feet. Watson drove into the right rough and hammered his 120-yard second over the green.

Watson bladed his shot from the trampled rough into the bank next to the green and it ran 5 feet past the hole. After Stadler missed his birdie try and tapped in for par, Watson’s par try slid by the left side.

“I thought I hit a good putt, but obviously I misread that, too,” Watson said.

Stadler birdied the par-4 ninth to take a one-stroke lead over Watson, but fell behind with a double bogey on the par-4 11th. Stadler took a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie after driving into a Buckhorn Cholla and missed a 4-foot bogey try.

“Cactus and short putt and all that was on one hole,” Stadler said. “Eleven has had my number for years. I butcher that hole every year.”

Stadler likely will move up high enough in the world ranking to get one of the last spots in the 64-man Match Play Championship this month outside Tucson.

Stadler’s previous biggest win was in Australia in the European Tour’s 2006 Johnnie Walker Classic. In that event, he hit a 3-iron to a foot for an eagle on the final hole for a two-stroke victory. He also won the Argentine Open that winter and has four Nationwide Tour wins.

“It’s been a long time since I won anything,” Stadler said. “It’s pretty special.”

Watson is winless since the 2012 Masters.

“I was a challenging day,” Watson said. “Again, it’s the same thing, just waiting on every tee box and waiting on every shot.”

Hunter Mahan and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama tied for fourth at 14 under. Mahan, the 2010 winner, finished with a 68, and Matsuyama shot 69.

DeLaet bogeyed the 15th after hitting into the water, but rallied with birdies on the final two holes. He also tied for second last week at Torrey Pines.

“I have been playing well for the last few months,” DeLaet said. “I really feel like I worked super hard in the offseason. It’s nice to see it paying off.”

Phil Mickelson closed with a 71 to tie for 42nd at 3 under. Lefty was making his 25th appearance in the event he won in 1996, 2005 and 2013.

“My game is not far off, even though the score says that it is,” Mickelson said. “It was just a fraction off.”

He showed no signs of the back pain that forced him to withdraw at Torrey Pines, and will play next week at Pebble Beach.

“Back feels great,” Mickelson said.

The event drew an estimated 563,008 fans, breaking the seven-day record of 538,356 set in 2008. The tournament drew a golf-record 189,722 on Saturday and 60,232 on Sunday.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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