Monday, February 3

Victory at Last for 'The Smallrus'

KEVIN STADLER, SON OF CRAIG "THE WALRUS" STADLER, had been toiling on the PGA Tour for a number of years without a win. But that changed when "The Smallrus" (as the AP called him) outlasted Bubba Watson at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday. Now the new champion of the Waste Management Phoenix Open will join his pop at the 2014 Masters.

"It's going to be great for me because it's really my last one," said the elder Stadler, who won the 1982 Masters and a dozen other titles on the PGA Tour.

Wearing Denver Broncos orange and blue for the final round, Kevin Stadler had one persistent thought as Watson stood over a 5-foot par putt on the 18th green that would force a playoff.

"How long the playoff was going to take and how long until I can watch the football game?" he said.

Thankfully, the win came in regulation for the 33-year-old journeyman and Broncos fan. Bubba missed his tying putt. The way the Broncos played, Stadler might not have minded missing some (or all) of that big game.

I watched the last five or six holes of the tournament before heading out to a Super Bowl get-together. Stadler was hitting it OK, for the most part, but missed some short putts. Meanwhile, Watson was erratic. (I later read that Bubba was frustrated with the slow pace of play and, at times, he seemed distracted, irritated, or both.) There were moments when I wondered if one of the trailing players such as Hunter Mahan or Graham DeLaet was going to steal the trophy.

Both Stadler and Watson drove the green on the par-4 17th hole. And then both two-putted from about 90 feet for birdie to go to the last hole tied at 16 under. The Smallrus piped a 344-yard drive down the 18th fairway. Bubba deposited his tee shot into the right-hand rough, which pretty much doomed his chances.

A few moments later it was over. And not long after that, so was the Super Bowl.

Malcolm Smith, a Seattle Seahawks linebacker and the Super Bowl MVP, is going to Disney World. While that may be an unhappy thought for Kevin Stadler, he gets to go to Augusta. His Sunday could have turned out much worse.

As CBS reported during its telecast, the Waste Management Phoenix Open set another attendance record. More than 560,000 people showed up during the week. What a crazy event. In a good way, mostly.

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