Former Sahalee Players champion Kyle Stanley wins for second time on PGA Tour
Kyle Stanley of Gig Harbor, Wash. won his second PGA Tour title at the Quicken Loans National, defeating Charles Howell III with a par on the first playoff hole (No. 18) of sudden death.
The victory at first-time tournament host venue TPC Potomac vaulted Stanley 24 spots in the PGA Tour's 2016-17 FedExCup standings into 14th place.
Having started the tournament's final round four shots off the lead, Stanley's victory marked the largest final-round comeback in Quicken Loans National history and qualified him to play in The Open Championship (July 20-23), golf's third major championship this season.
Stanley won the prestigious Sahalee Players Championship in 2006, when he survived a four-man sudden-death playoff against, among others, current PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson. Stanley attended Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, then Clemson University, where he was a two-time first team All-American. He was selected for Team USA in the '07 Walker Cup, and in 2009 received the Ben Hogan Award for best collegiate golfer.
After his recent tour victory, Stanley answered questions from the media. Below are excerpts from that interview.
MODERATOR: It's a pleasure to welcome Kyle Stanley into the interview room, our 2017 Quicken Loans National champion.
Kyle, that was quite a battle out there. If we can just get some comments on your second PGA Tour victory.
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, it feels really good. Great golf course. It definitely took some of my best golf today. Credit to Charles, he played great. We kind of fed off of each other being in the same group. Yeah, it's hard to put into words right now, it's just very special to get a second win.
MODERATOR: Before we open it up to questions, Kyle moves to No. 14 in the FedExCup standings.
Q. Kyle, you've qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs four times in your career, but you've never made it to East Lake. I know that's a big goal of yours. Talk about how moving into the top 15 now sets you up really well.
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, it was one of my main goals at the beginning of the year when we kind of sat down and thought about the direction we wanted to go in. Come close a couple times, you know, but we're off to a good start. Hopefully look forward to being there this year.
Q. Kyle, so what are your overall impressions of this TPC Potomac course?
Kyle Stanley (file photo)
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, it's really good. One of the more difficult courses I think we've played this year. You know, have to keep the ball in front of you, it's pretty demanding off the tee. If you get a little out of position, it's just going to create problems for yourself. So being in the fairway off the tee was something I knew was going to be big this week, and fortunately I drove it pretty well.
Q. You obviously had a pretty big slump from 2014 into 2015. Was there a moment where you realized that you had started to turn it around? Was getting your card back in 2015 a big moment for you? Can you tell me how that went?
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, I would say probably keeping my card in the '15 season was a success. I had to play pretty well my last couple of events, so when I did that, I think going into Wyndham I was a couple spots outside the top 125. So to go there and play well when I knew we needed to, I think we finished 13th or 14th that week, that was kind of a big confidence boost for me, I guess.
But maybe then is when I felt like I was maybe turning a corner a little bit, and then this season for the most part my play's been pretty consistent.
Q. You've always been a good ball-striker. Was it putting that was the issue that caused your game to kind of spiral downward, or was there one thing in particular that wasn't working for you at that time?
KYLE STANLEY: Not really. I think it was actually probably a little bit of everything. You know, but that kind of stuff happens. I don't think you can expect for, you know, over a career to not have any, you know, bad spells or periods where things don't kind of go how you want.
That being said, you know, it happened. It might happen again, but, you know, we just kept working hard and kind of worked our way out of it.
Q. Kyle, to just follow up on that, was there a coach, either a swing coach or a mental coach, or who kind of helped you along? Everybody's kind of a team out here. Who kind of helped you dig your way out of that?
KYLE STANLEY: Well, Ralph Bauer's my main guy. I've been with him for probably six years, five, six years. So he's kind of been with me through the good years and kind of that bad spell you mentioned. I added a guy to kind of watch over me when I'm home, his name's Chris Griffin.
Q. Swing coaches?
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, him and Ralph are kind of both in that category. And then at the beginning of this season I got back together with the fitness guys that I used to work with, college and a few years after college.
Q. Did you ever have a point where you thought this might not happen, I might not get back to the winner's circle, or did you always believe, you know what, there's peaks and valleys, it happens to everybody, I'll get back there?
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah. I mean, there was some doubt there for a little bit. Yeah, I mean, it's no fun. You certainly question if you'll get back to, you know, and have a moment like this. It makes this pretty special, for sure.
Q. At what point today did you first think you would have a chance to win?
KYLE STANLEY: Well, I tried not to think about it too much, but I don't know. I didn't really pay too much attention. I knew once I made -- Charles eagled that hole and then I birdied it and that got us to 7 under, and then I looked at the board and I saw we were both tied for first. So at that point I wasn't really sure what the guys behind us were doing. Just tried to make a birdie or two coming in. Fortunately, made a couple good pars on 17 and 18.
Q. You had to wait obviously a little bit for that rain and then you had to wait to start the playoff. What do you kind of go through in your head to kind of stay calm and focused and in the moment there?
KYLE STANLEY: I just tried to hit a few balls and kind of keep moving. We didn't have too much time. There was only about 15 or 20 minutes. So after we signed our card, just tried to stay active doing something. Just went ahead and hit a few balls, hit a few putts to stay loose.
Q. So this is obviously a really great emotional victory for you and your family. Being just outside of Washington D.C., do you guys have any plans to celebrate with some sightseeing, with any plans to bring in this big win with you and the family?
KYLE STANLEY: Not really. Next week, Greenbrier, but that's been a scheduled week off for a while. We'll head home in the morning. Yeah, probably won't do a whole lot. My cousin actually, Tommy, he's from right here in Bethesda. It would be nice to hang out with him a little bit.
Q. Kyle, what was the club you hit on the second shot of the playoff hole, and where it landed at the time, were you happy with where it landed in the moment?
KYLE STANLEY: In the playoff?
Q. Yeah, because it wasn't quite on the green but pretty close. Were you happy with that at the time?
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, once I got up there. It wasn't right up against the collar, so had it been up against that second cut of rough, it would have been a pretty difficult shot.
Q. What club was it?
KYLE STANLEY: What club did I hit into the green?
KYLE STANLEY: 8-iron.
Q. Kyle, in your first win you also -- you had to come back in your first win, you had to come back today, too. What's your mindset going into these rounds where you're behind and have to fight back?
KYLE STANLEY: Well, the position I was in today was in my mind probably a little bit easier than the guys that were in the last group or last couple groups just being to where I could kind of fly under the radar for a little bit and kind of put together a good round.
But I think that's just a testament to this golf course. It's very difficult, so you know that if you're a few shots back, you can make that up with a pretty good round. So I didn't really have a number what I thought I needed to go today to win, but once I made a few birdies on the front nine and the leaders weren't really doing much, it kind of occurred to me that if I just kept plodding my way around, we might have a chance.
Q. Kyle, on the drive on the playoff hole, was there a moment when you were real worried and then a moment when you were real happy when you saw where it ended up?
KYLE STANLEY: Well, the first round I was up in kind of a similar spot, maybe not quite as far right, but you can play it from up there. I made a huge mental mistake on my 18th hole in regulation hitting it in that left bunker because you don't have much from over there. I was pretty fortunate to be able to hit that second shot on the green. I guess my mindset in the playoff was to -- I was kind of thinking just don't hit it in those left bunkers, so that's kind of why I bailed out so far right. It's not too bad over there with the pin where it was today, you had kind of an angle and the rough wasn't too thick.
Q. Was that your break that you didn't end up in bad rough?
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, I was pretty lucky over there because you don't get line-of-sight relief from those whatever, those boxes where they're like a permanent part of the golf course. So for -- if my ball was a foot left or two feet left of where I was, I wouldn't have really had much. So that was -- yeah, that was a really good break.
Q. Kyle, how much did playing with Charles and you guys both being out in front of everybody and chasing, how did that -- did you guys sort of feed off each other at all, even in the playoff, too? You both had hot rounds going.
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, we both played really well today. He played really well in regulation and so did I. He's such a nice guy. It was a very comfortable pairing for me. I assume it was the same for him. But yeah, we both played pretty well.
Q. Kyle, in addition to winning today, of course now you're qualified into The Open later this month and it will be the first time you're in a major since 2013. Do you feel you're ready for that?
KYLE STANLEY: Yeah, I feel like my game's in really good shape. The body of work I think this season, there really haven't been too many weak spots. Everything's been kind of pretty consistent. You know, it's been a while since I've been in a major, like you said. I think British Opens are kind of fun because you have to get creative and play kind of a nontechnical style of golf, which I think I play, so we'll see.
Q. Kyle, you were obviously emotional on the 18th green and in here. Is that because you were thinking about those down times that you've discussed and wondering whether you would ever be in this position again, or if not that, then why were you so emotional?
KYLE STANLEY: I wish I didn't cry so much, to be honest. Yeah, I think so. Like I said earlier, I just had a lot of people kind of help me the last few years. It's been a huge team effort. It just feels good to put the work in and to see the rewards. I think that's where most of the emotion's coming from.
MODERATOR: Well, congratulations once again, Kyle Stanley.
KYLE STANLEY: Thank you guys.
(Transcript courtesy of Tee-Scripts.com)
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