Even without Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, the Farmers Insurance Open more than delivered in the excitement department.
Sunday afternoon at Torrey Pines proved to be a down-to-the-wire finish, with at least 10 players owning or sharing the lead at some point along the way. In the end, as Jordan Spieth fell off the pace with a sore ankle and third-round leader Gary Woodland played his final five holes at three-over-par, it was Scott Stallings who emerged from the chaos with the victory, his third career PGA Tour win.
It was a surprising turnaround for Stallings, who shot level par in his first two tries at the long, challenging beast known as the South course. He actually had found ways to make plenty of birdies in those two rounds, but couldn’t avoid giving strokes back.
The stats don’t tell the complete story. Stallings led the field in strokes gained putting and made 19 birdies, second-most of anybody in the event. Although his driving was as bad as it could be on Sunday – Stallings hit just four of 14 fairways – it was a big risk at the end that paid off.
On the 18th hole, a long par-5, Stallings chose to go for the green in two instead of laying up and trying to just get up and down. “As a player, all you want is chances,” Stallings said in USA Today after the tournament.
“I was playing to win. Any player out here would tell you if you have 4-iron in your hand and you need to get it on the green and then two-putt to win, we’re all going for it.”
Golf’s detractors will bemoan how long the game takes, and that’s certainly a valid concern, but what we got on Sunday was a drama-filled day where any of nearly a dozen players could have won. When you have players taking big risks for big rewards, it doesn’t get much better than that.