Berkeley Hall's Kyle Stanley uses Torrey Pines collapse as motivation

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comApril 11, 2012 

The questions might stick around a while.

Bluffton resident and Berkeley Hall touring pro Kyle Stanley positioned himself for his first tour victory in January, leading by as many as seven shots at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

But from the fairway on the par-5 18th, he unraveled, spinning his third shot back into the water, then three-putting for an 8.

He would lose in a playoff to defending Heritage champion Brandt Snedeker.

After the initial shock, Stanley's response to further questions was that he was playing good golf, that the process was working. He proved it the following week, winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open after trailing by eight shots to start the final round.

No matter what happens the remainder of the season, even a victory this week in his backyard, those two weeks early in the season might define Stanley for a long time.

But he'll have answers to the questions.

"I think I learned a lot about myself and my golf game," Stanley told reporters at the Shell Houston Open in March.

"And I wasn't quite sure how I was going to respond to that. But I wouldn't really change anything about it. I think it was really good for me, and I think it definitely made me a tougher player."

Stanley makes his second start at Harbour Town Golf Links hoping for a better showing than 2011, when he shot 74-73 to miss the cut. The same support system that helped him through the debacle at Torrey Pines might have worked against him when he was home last year, Stanley said.

He said he hasn't had the opportunity to play Harbour Town this year but that he hopes for more focus and a better showing the second time.

"I had a lot going on with family, friends and what not and I did not manage things as well as I would have liked," Stanley said. "I don't think that I was as prepared to play as I should have been and underestimated some of the demands that go along with playing a tour event in your backyard."

After a furious pace to start to this season, Stanley returned home for some relaxation and to work on his game. The Washington state native traveled to Pittsburgh to watch Gonzaga play in the NCAA basketball tournament, practiced at Berkeley Hall and experienced Augusta National Golf Club.

Stanley's focus since the offseason has been on his play from 100 yards in, working on his wedge game and putting. He has worked with Mike Taylor, his swing coach in Sea Island, Ga., and James Sieckmann, who works with several other tour pros.

Sieckmann tweeted a photo in late March of Stanley practicing at Augusta National.

Stanley's work ethic has been well-documented in recent weeks. At Clemson, he took advantage of the lighted driving range, staying until he was satisfied his final shot was his best one.

The commitment began when Stanley was 15, after he missed the cut at the Washington high school state championships and received a gut check from his father.

Practice sessions at Clemson, which Stanley guessed ended as late as 3 a.m., sometimes resumed after Stanley had driven away and turned around, Stanley not content with how he finished.

Putting owns his focus of late. He said this past week, before playing his first Masters, that he would probably make changes.

"Probably just getting out of my way a little bit," Stanley said. "Instead of trying to make putts, maybe focus a little bit more on the things I can control, maybe just be a little more process-oriented on the greens."

In his second season on the PGA Tour, Stanley has displayed the talent that led friend and former Masters champion Zach Johnson to label Stanley a "stud." As he prepared for his first Masters, Stanley ranked fifth on the money list, fifth in the FedEx Cup points race and fifth in driving distance.

After the wild finish at Torrey Pines, the surprised benefactor of Stanley's slip predicted better days for the 24-year-old.

"And sure enough, the next week he won," Snedeker said.

"And it was great to see him come down 18 and make a putt to win a tournament and get that monkey off his back. He's just a great player.

"He's going to be around here for a long time, and it's great to see him have that confidence now."

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