Going into the final round of golf at the Humana Challenge, it was Scott Stallings tournament to lose, and that’s exactly what he did by blowing a five stroke advantage to start the day and letting a large crowd of golfers back in the hunt. There was always the possibility that Stallings could struggle and players from that large group of five and six strokes behind could come out hot and make a move. Both scenarios played out in a wild final round on Sunday. By the time the smoke had cleared, Stallings didn’t even make the playoff and Brian Gay had taken home the tournament championship. And to think last week we thought we’d miss David Duval.
We will start with Stallings and when symptoms of a collapse became noticeable. After going three under par through six holes, Stallings missed very short and makeable putts on the 7th and 8th holes. Stallings rebounded with birdies on holes 10 and 11 and it appeared he may rebound and fight off a furious charge from behind from several players. Then there was the bogey on 16 that put Stallings in a four way tie for the lead and the bogey on 18 that left him altogether out of an eventual playoff. What?! A stunning collapse as Stallings finished with a final round 70 and at 24 under par for the tournament.
So who put pressure on Stallings? My god, who didn’t?! Obviously Gay, David Lingmerth and Charles Howell III, as these three played out the sudden death playoff. James Hahn also came roaring back with a final round 62, as did Kevin Chappell, who looked like he had a real chance at breaking 60 before the day was done.
Gay came out of the gates red hot and birdied nine of the first thirteen holes, when his play calmed down and he finished the day with five consecutive pars. Gay had a chance to tie Stallings on the 18th green with an eight foot birdie putt that he rimmed and had to tap in for par.
It was a few moments later that Stallings bogeyed 16 to create the four way tie at -25 under par and then bogeyed the 18th hole to end his day completely.
In the extra session, Lingmerth played himself out of contention on the first playoff hole with a bogey on the 18th, while Gay and Howell both birdied to move on to a second sudden death playoff hole. At the par four 10th hole, where Gay had a birdie earlier in the day, Howell struggled to a bogey and Brian repeated his earlier performance to claim the tournament victory. This was a stunning turnaround and a huge win for Gay, who started play in the final round six strokes behind the leader Stallings.
Stallings’ advantage really did look like it was going to be too much to overcome in one day but we have seen these wild final round swings before where it appears that no lead is safe. Any given Sunday, right?