Rookie triumphs in US play-off

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Scott Stallings is likely to remember the 18th hole at the Old White TPC in West Virginia for a long time to come.

Scott Stallings is likely to remember the 18th hole at the Old White TPC at White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia for a long time to come.

For it was here that the 26-year-old US PGA Tour rookie drained a five-foot birdie putt for a closing one-under 69 and a 10-under 270 total that was just enough to get him into a three-way play-off at the Greenbrier Classic on Sunday.

And it was also here, not to long afterwards, that he rolled home another birdie putt, this one a curling seven-footer, to beat fellow Americans Bob Estes and Bill Haas at the first extra hole after Estes had charge up the leaderboard with a sparkling six-under 64 and Haas had joined him with a 67.

On a day of see-sawing fortunes when any one of a dozen players could have won, the play-off trio finished a shot ahead of a five-man group that included Argentina’s Andres Romero (65), Zimbabwe’s Brendon De Jonge (66) and Americans Cameron Tringale, (67), Jimmy Walker (68) and Gary Woodland (69), the former basketball star who is another rookie to have won on the US Tour this year.

Stallings who punched the air in relief and sheer delight and then fiercely hugged his caddy after his triumph, had recorded only one top-10 finish in his previous 20 starts in this, his first year on the US PGA Tour, and had started his final round with four soul-destroying bogeys on the front nine.

Somehow, though, he managed to put all that behind him and came out on the back nine with all guns blazing, firing off a birdie blitz that saw him pick up shots at the 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 16th holes, and then after one more bogey at the par-five 17th, close his round with the critical birdie that would keep him alive and send him into the play-off

“I felt really good going into 17,” Stalling said afterwards. “I made a great birdie on 16 and then we had to wait about 30 minutes.

“I hit a bad shot (at 17) and got a bad break. I hit a tree and went in the water. But we stayed with it and to birdie 18 like we did was incredible.

“I stayed in it all day. To come out as a champion on the PGA Tour as a rookie is a dream come true.”

Three-times PGA Tour winner and overnight leader Anthony Kim began the day one stroke clear of the field and his lead was briefly doubled when his playing partner Stallings bogeyed the par-four first.

However, Kim was unable to convert several birdie chances early on the front nine before he bogeyed the eighth and ninth to trail the pace-setting Webb Simpson by two shots.

Simpson had birdied the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth to reach the turn in two-under 34 and claim the outright lead at 10-under.

Moments later, though, he was joined at the top by Haas before he (Simpson) then slipped back with a three-putt bogey at the 10th.

Haas, who had birdied three of the first 10 holes, collected his first bogey of the day at the par-three 15th, where his tee shot ended up thick greenside rough.

That dropped him into a five-way tie for second place, a stroke behind the fast-finishing Estes who birdied his last two holes for his day’s best 64.

Stallings, now on his birdie run coming down the final stretch, broke clear of the chasing pack to draw level with Estes with a birdie at the par-four 16th, only to slip back again after his long wait at 17.

He showed great resolve though, to reclaim a share of the lead with his closing birdie and then win the play-off.

Four players held the outright lead at various stages during the final round but overnight leader Kim, bidding for his first PGA Tour victory in more than a year, saw his game come apart, tumbled down the leaderboard and finished in a tie for 14th after closing with a 74.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

270 Scott Stallings (US) 70 65 66 69 (Stallings won the play-off at the first extra hole), Bob Estes (US) 69 72 65 64, Bill Haas (US) 71 67 65 67
271 Andres Romero (Arg) 71 69 66 65, Brendon De Jonge (Zim) 66 67 72 66, Cameron Tringale (US) 70 67 67 67, Jimmy Walker (US) 69 72 62 68, Gary Woodland (US) 65 70 67 69
272 Kyle Stanley (US) 66 75 65 66, Webb Simpson (US) 65 68 69 70

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