SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Stadler survived a difficult back nine holes Sunday to outlast one-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and earn his first career PGA Tour victory at Scottsdale’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Stadler, who narrowly missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, nervously watched Watson attempt a 5-foot putt for par that would have sent the duo into a sudden-death playoff.
However, Watson pushed his shot to the left and Stadler let out a deep sigh of relief to his caddy and celebrated.
“It was a pretty weird way to win a golf tournament. I fully expected him to make the putt, and I would have much rather to make a putt to win the tournament than him miss it,” said Stadler, who shot a 16-under 268 in the tourney.
Had he and Watson faced each another in a playoff, it wouldn’t have been the first time the two had done so. In what is now known as the Web.com Tour, Stadler defeated Watson in the 2004 Lake Erie Charity Classic at Peak’n Peak Resort.
“He’s such a great player just like his dad because they both have the same swing,” Watson said of Stadler after finishing the tournament at 15 under, tied for second with Graham DeLaet.
“I take my hat off to him…he beat me.”
Stadler, a Scottsdale resident, said it was special to win his first victory so close to home, noting that he lives only one stop light away from the TPC of Scottsdale. This was the 239th career PGA Tour event for the 33-year-old pro.
The $1.1 million first place prize he will receive may be special, but not nearly as much as qualifying for his first ever Masters this spring at the prestigious Augusta National Golf Course.
That also means Kevin will finally get to play alongside his father, Craig, who won the 1982 Masters and declared that this would be his final year on the tour.
In a telephone press conference, Craig was very excited to hear the news that his son got the monkey off his back.
“It’s awesome. I never doubted him, and he deserves it,” the father said.
Rounding out the rest of the top five were Hunter Mahan and Hideki Matsuyama, who both finished at -14.
Other notable finishes from local fan favorites include Arizona State alum Pat Perez, who finished 10-under par in 11th place. Tied for 12th at 9-under was Australian Matt Jones — another former Sun Devil. Last year’s champion and the most recognized Arizona native, Phil Mickelson, finished at 3-under, tied for 42nd.
Mickelson congratulated the entire tournament organizers at preparing this year’s course with “impeccable” conditions, but was disappointed that he couldn’t take advantage of it.
“My game was just a fraction off. My irons were what I struggled with this week, but I drove the ball well. Short game wasn’t bad. Putting wasn’t bad.”
The Phoenix Open, known for its passionate crowds, enjoyed another record-breaking year in attendance. This year, it welcomed 563,008 spectators over the course of the week — eclipsing 2008’s 538,356 total attendance.
Saturday’s mark of 189,722 also broke last year’s single-day record by more than 10,000 patrons.