Kevin Stadler triumphs in Phoenix for first PGA Tour win

Kevin Stadler (Courtesy: Keith Allison)

Kevin Stadler (Courtesy: Keith Allison)

Some players are superstars, and others aren’t. This is true across all sports, but it becomes especially prevalent in golf due to the dearth of true stars that can seemingly cross over into the mainstream sports consciousness. If golf isn’t the sport with the least amount of true superstars, I’m not sure what is.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have reached that point without question. John Daly was there when he was at the very least occasionally winning golf tournaments, and I think Bubba Watson has achieved superstar status, even though you can make the argument that he’s nowhere near the quality player that either Adam Scott or Rory McIlroy is. The pink driver, the Golf Boys videos, the social interaction and the fact that he absolutely mashes the ball and is able to move it around just about anything have made him exceedingly popular with the fans.

Kevin Stadler is not one of those guys, and he will likely never be one of those guys. He grew up in the game and his father, Craig, was on the PGA Tour, ironically becoming one of the most popular players the game had for a stretch of time when he was also one of golf’s best talents. Kevin Stadler has become one of the PGA Tour’s most consistent regulars, but is really only known by the most ardent of golf viewers, thanks in large part to the fact that, unlike Watson, he had yet to win on the PGA Tour coming into yesterday. He was 0-for-239, and perennially on that unwanted list of “best players to never win on the PGA Tour.” Graham DeLaet, arguably the best of those winless players, had a great weekend of 65-65 to get into the clubhouse at 15-under par and force both Watson and Stadler to keep making birdies as they came down the stretch at TPC Scottsdale.

Stadler and Watson got to the par-5 18th tee tied at 16-under par, one stroke ahead of the number set by DeLaet in the clubhouse. When Stadler made his par, DeLaet’s chances were sunk, but Watson still had a chance to force a playoff if he could make a five-footer for his par. Watson knew right away that he had hit a poor putt, and you could see the relief on Stadler’s face when he realized that he had finally broken that PGA Tour duck.

The win likely means that he’ll have a place in the WGC-Match Play for the first time ever at the end of this month, and as was mentioned about 23125 times on the broadcast once he got into contention, Stadler will be going to the Masters for the first time where assuming that Augusta National doesn’t have a completely callous heart, they’ll pair him with his dad, as the elder Stadler still tees it up at Augusta every year as a past champion.

For Watson, it’s the best result he’s had anywhere since he won the Masters back in 2012, but it’s also a tournament that he let slip away. While it’s likely a step in the right direction, it’s amazing how far he’s fallen since winning that green jacket nearly two years ago. I’m always of the opinion that talent wins out in the end, so Watson is likely going to be just fine, but this is a big deal for Stadler.

When we talk about golf and professional golfers, we tend to think of those superstars, but for every Tiger, Phil and Bubba, there’s probably two or three Kevin Stadler’s. Those guys who tore up amateur and college golf, but quickly came to the realization that the pro game is completely different, one where success doesn’t come anywhere near as easily as it used to. Wins like this one are what makes sure that guys like Stadler stay on the PGA Tour, giving him exemptions into tournaments that he otherwise wouldn’t have been qualified for.

Kevin Stadler will never be a superstar, but his win on Sunday and the chance to go to Augusta with his father is probably good enough for him.

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