Stanley Builds Lead at Farmers, Eyes First Tour Win

For a full recap of Saturday’s third round action at the Farmers Insurance Open, click HERE.

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Players’ Quotes from Saturday

“I feel good. I think the biggest thing is you can’t necessarily go out there and try to protect it. You’ve got to really just keep doing what got you to this point. I’m not going to be anymore conservative tomorrow. I’ll stick to my game plan off the tee and hopefully just continue to give myself a lot of chances.” – Kyle Stanley, explaining his mindset heading into Sunday’s final round with a 5-shot lead at the Farmers Insurance Open. Stanley’s 4-under round of 68 on Saturday put him at 18-under for the event, tying the 54-hole tournament record set by Tiger Woods back in 1998. Stanley also talked about how his length off the tee has served him well through the first three days at Torrey Pines. “Yeah, I mean, for some reason I’ve always been long. I don’t know why, because I’m not the biggest guy in the world. But you take a golf course like this where you’re hitting 7-irons into par-5s and short irons into long par-4s, it definitely helps. I mean, it’s helped me a lot this week.” If Kyle Stanley can repeat Saturday’s performance, he’ll most likely earn his first PGA Tour career victory on Sunday.

“I didn’t really have experience playing junior golf because I really, financially it was kind of hard for us. So we didn’t really have a chance to play a lot of tournaments. So I just worked hard and had a chance to go to Korea and play over there on the Korean Tour for three years. I learned a lot from that and I’m here.” – John Huh, the 21-yr-old PGA Tour rookie who is proving to be a quick study on the life of a Touring professional, talking about his sudden success in just his first PGA Tour season. Huh got off to a quick start this week at the Farmers thanks to a great opening round of 8-under 64, a round that included 3 eagles. He would lose momentum on Friday in the 2nd round, with 4 birdies and 3 bogeys for a 1-under 71, but would bounce back on Saturday with a 4-under 68.  Going into Sunday, Huh finds himself 5 shots back of the lead but in a T2 with Tour veteran John Rollins.

“Sure, if a guy had a ten or 12 shot lead, you’d feel pretty comfortable. But when you’re four or five shots, sometimes it’s hard to play with a big lead because you get kind of relaxed and everything else. Then next thing you know, a bad drive here and there leads to some bogies, and birdie-bogey on the same hole and two shots could happen pretty quick.” – John Rollins, providing his thoughts about Stanley’s 5-shot lead and reminding everyone that there’s still one more round in the tournament yet to be played. Rollins fired a round of 4-under 68 on Saturday, moving up 5 places on the leaderboard and tied for 2nd with John Huh at 13-under par. Rollins’ last win came back at the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open back in 2009.

Notables

Brandt Snedeker entered Saturday’s 3rd round only one shot back of Kyle Stanley, but unfortunately that would be as close as he would get to the leader. Snedeker found trouble quickly on the very first hole and began his round with a bogey, and then made 2 more bogeys against a lone birdie to go out in 2-over 38. Snedeker struggled to get anything going on the inward nine, coming in at level par and 2-over on the day. He finds himself 7 shots back of the lead and is currently tied for 6th place.

Bill Haas was 4 shots back of the lead heading into his 3rd round on Saturday, but failed to take advantage of 3 of the 4 par5′s and posted a rather pedestrian round of 2-under 70. Haas is 6 shots back of the lead heading into Sunday, T4.

Defending champ Bubba Watson played well enough to survive the modified 2nd cut on Saturday, but that’s about the extent of his success thus far this week. Watson is 8-under for the tournament, 10 shots back of leader Kyle Stanley.

The low round on Saturday came from 27-yr-old Tour rookie Jonas Blixt, who has spent most of his career splitting time between the Nationwide Tour and the European Challenge Tour. The Swede fired a 3rd round score of 7-under 65 on Saturday to jump 35 spots up the leaderboard, T6 at 11-under.

Saturday Evening Parting Shot

I’ll avoid the ever-increasing fad of preordaining PGA Tour greatness this evening…. history always seems to have a way of reminding us of the futility of such a notion. What Kyle Stanley will do with his golden opportunity on Sunday remains to be seen, but nothing that I’ve seen from him (going back to last season when he was a rookie) would suggest that what we’re seeing this week is a fluke. Stanley carded 4 top-10′s in his rookie season last year, and you may recall that Steve Stricker’s miraculous approach shot from the fairway bunker on the final hole back at the John Deere Classic last July essentially robbed the 24-yr-old of a playoff at the very least, if not his first Tour win outright. This kid has enormous length, length that has rendered this beefed-up layout at Torrey Pines little more than an executive course. He’s a solid putter, and no one has hit more greens during the first 3 days of this tournament than he has. Would it be a total shocker to see him stumble on Sunday with such a commanding lead? No, not at all. But having said that… going back to that Sunday last season at the John Deere Classic – Kyle Stanley didn’t exactly fade away once he came to his last 9 holes of the tournament. In fact, he birdied 5 of his first 6 holes in that back nine that Sunday, putting himself in a great position to win and turning up the pressure on Steve Stricker. Now obviously this is a completely different situation this time around, and while he’s shown an ability to play the lead role of the chaser, he hasn’t been presented with an opportunity to close with a commanding lead. It’s not easy, just as John Rollins alluded to, especially on a course that is susceptible to scoring as the conditions have allowed this week at Torrey Pines. But Kyle Stanley has clearly elevated his game this week, and if he can find a way to manage his first spot of bother on Sunday, and that will happen at some point – we could be seeing a talented young player becoming a factor as the rest of the season plays out. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get it done Sunday.

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