JOE BIDDLE: Former Tennessee Tech golfer joins Tiger Woods - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Former Tennessee Tech golfer joins Tiger Woods

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Tiger Woods shot a 79 in the second round and missed the cut. Nashville's Brandt Snedeker had an opening round of 77 and joined Woods.

Both sat out the final two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines GC in La Jolla.

It was 28-year-old Scott Stallings that was California dreaming as the last man standing Sunday.

Ironically it was while watching the 1997 Masters with his father that the 12-year old Stallings saw Woods destroy the field. It prompted him to drop all other sports he was playing.

Stallings told his father he wanted to make a living playing golf. His father never pooh-poohed the idea, instead supported the decision.

"Tiger is the one who made me want to play golf. Watching him win that Masters, it was pure domination. He was going to beat them all and make them like it,'' Stallings said. "I dropped every sport I was playing. My friends thought I was crazy.''

Stallings grew up in East Tennessee and played scholarship golf at Tennessee Tech.

Now in his fourth year on Tour, Stallings is one of six pros under 30 that has at least three Tour victories.

It hasn't always been easy. Last year he blew a big lead at Humana when he put his ball in the water on the final hole.

Sunday he thought about Humana every step of the way.

Stallings put his drive in the fairway, one of only four fairways he hit Sunday. Stallings had 220 yards to the front of the green, 227 to the hole.

Many a tournament has been won or lost on the 537-yard, par-5 hole that has a large water hazard guarding the 18th green.

The second shot is a risk-reward shot for many of the pros. If they come up short of the green, the ball usually finds the water.

Some choose to bail out right of the green and hope for a good bounce to get on or near the green.

Stallings admitted he was thinking about the 18th at Humana, but only in a way to remind him to slow down and take his time. He never considered laying up.

"You don't get very many opportunities as a player. All you want is chances. I was playing to win. Every player on the PGA Tour will tell you the same thing,'' Stallings said.

"I had a hanger lie there, and I knew I had to hammer a 4-iron to carry the water. I hit it good, but a little gust of wind came up and held it down. I didn't realize it was going to be that close.''

His shot barely cleared the water, leaving him a 40-foot eagle putt. He two-putted for the birdie and it was enough to make the difference.
 
The win earned him a return trip to the Masters and vaulted him from No. 166 to No. 10 on the FedEx Cup points chase.

Stallings, who lives in Knoxville with his wife Jennifer and their young son, spent this winter in Arizona practicing and playing almost every day. He became the first to get to the clubhouse Sunday with a final round 68.

The 9-under score for the four rounds was in danger of not being enough to stand up, as five golfers had chances to pass Stallings on the final holes. None of them managed to catch him.

"Scott has been huge in the clutch,'' said Steve McDonald, Director of Competition for the Tennessee Golf Foundation and a friend of Stallings.

"When he gets an opportunity, he capitalizes on it, especially if he is in or near the lead. He has been able to finish it off.''

There was some doubt coming into Torrey Pines.

"I've never played good here. I've never made the cut. I didn't drive it the best, but made up for it with my short game,'' Stallings said.

Now his name is on the same champions plaque at Torrey Pines, along with Tiger Woods and other past winners.

"There are not many lists on the PGA Tour where you can have your name there with Tiger Woods. Having your name near Tigers Woods is never a bad thing.''

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.  

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