As a group, American-born PGA Tour pros are typically portrayed as unwilling or at least reluctant to compete even occasionally outside their highly lucrative comfort-zone.
Yes, these supposedly unworldly young men earn millions of dollars. But on courses that are mind-numbingly similar almost every week, they soon enough become boringly one-dimensional in their thinking and shot making and so never really learn how to play “proper” golf.
Not all fall into that depressingly insular category though. There are exceptions. And Kyle Stanley is one of those. A year on from his maiden trip to the Australian Open – he shot seven under par for 72 holes and finished eleventh by himself – the 25-year old native of Washington State is back for a second look at The Lakes.
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“I love it down here in Australia,” he said immediately after signing for an opening 72. “And when our season ends I like to travel a bit and see some of the world. I liked the course last year and played pretty well. Plus, I just wanted to be competing. I’ve been a bit restless lately. This is only my third tournament since September because of a back injury and because I played so much early in the season.”
Stanley is well used to setbacks, of course, even those of the sickening variety. Earlier this year he arrived on the last tee at Torrey Pines needing only a double-bogey seven to clinch the Farmers Insurance Open, what would have been his first PGA Tour victory. After two shots he was less than 100-yards from the pin – so far so good - but spun his approach back into the pond fronting the green. On the putting surface in five, he took the inevitable three-putts, tied with Brandt Snedeker and lost at the fourth hole of the sudden-death play-off.
One week later, however, Stanley bounced back with something of a vengeance, overcoming a five-shot deficit on the last day to win the Waste Management Open in Phoenix. All of which was a prelude to his finishing thirty-first on the Fed-Ex Cup standings – only the top-30 qualify for the PGA Tour season-ending Tour Championship. Clearly, agonisingly narrow misses are something of a Stanley specialty.
Still, he is nothing if not determined, as he showed with a gutsy display at The Lakes, in a round that could easily have added up to 75 or more.
“My motivation is to finish off the season playing well,” continued Stanley.
“So this is a working holiday for me. I love The Lakes and its ‘linksy’ style. It’s fun to play golf in a bit of wind and have to battle with the elements. You have to tune into your feel, which is what I like. Plus, you get to know what you have to work on pretty quickly out there. Any weakness is exposed almost immediately.
“The green complexes here are so wonderful and thought-provoking. You get to play so many different kinds of shots, instead of automatically pulling out the 60-degree wedge every time. I like that. Especially when you are in a less than ideal spot, you have to hit real quality shots to save par. You don’t get too many ‘stock’ shots here. And that’s how the game should be.
“My short game saved me on a lot of holes today. Level par isn’t a great score, but it’s not bad either. I feel like I should have done a bit more damage on the front-nine this morning, when it was still pretty calm. But I’ll take 72.”
One-dimensional? Spoiled? Unworldly? Quite clearly, Kyle Stanley is none of those things. Welcome back to Australia young man.
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