Kyle Stanley gave away a golf tournament one week, then screamed back a week later to win another. So much was written about his implosion and later, on his vindication, that my head spun again and again. I knew the headline (see above) would write itself, but the content escaped me until recently. Here’s my perspective on why Kyle Stanley’s bounceback victory differs from other, similar situations.
> Kyle Stanley gave away a regular tour event, then came back to win a regular tour event. It’s a case of all things being equal. In other, public and visible situations, players like Jean Van de Velde, Sergio Garcia and an aged Tom Watson have given away major championships and have not returned to win major championships. The retribution factor demands that only a similar event can erase a collapse.
> Stanley won promptly. Observers and the media were in a kind and gentle mood after Devlin’s Billabong became Stanley’s Sinkhole and they wished him well. Had he not come back at Phoenix to win his first tour event, the question would beg, is he damaged goods now? Others who suffered similar difficulties, had scant success redeeming themselves. The more events that pass, the quicker the doubt mounts and the more challenging the redemption becomes.
> Stanley won with the same sort of final-day spurt that Brent Snedeker had tossed at him half a fortnight prior. Snedeker whipped Stanley by 7 strokes (67-74) that Sunday in San Diego (with more than half the differential~4 strokes~coming on hole 18). A week later, Stanley returned the favor in Phoenix to Spencer Levin , by ten strokes (65-75). Had he backed into the victory, pundits and aficionados might have devalued the triumph.
Don’t make much out of the two-week dramatic sequence. Stanley was a very good player last year, better than Rickie Fowler (the most highly-touted young US pro). He played as well as Keegan Bradley, excluding the two weeks that Bradley won tournaments. His contention for events is not nearly the surprise that it was in 2011. Multiple wins this year will mark him as one who could win steadily over a career (like a Davis Love or a Fred Couples), while a major victory will elevate him to a different status. For now, he’s a guy who paid a debt.