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Dad Calls Kevin Stadler's Victory 'Awesome'
One of the happiest observers of Kevin Stadler's victory in Sunday's Waste Management Phoenix Open was his father, long-time touring pro Craig Stadler. The senior Stadler, a 13-time PGA Tour winner and the 1982 Masters champion, saw his son's first-ever Tour victory at TPC Scottsdale from his home in Colorado.
Craig Stadler, also known as "The Walrus" for his portly build and bushy mustache - the former familial trait shared by his son, told a few reporters of Kevin's maiden title, "It is awesome. You know, I never doubted him for a minute. You know, he had opportunities the last couple months. He started feeling a little more comfortable."
Bubba Watson had a chance to tie and force a sudden-death playoff with a short par putt on the 72nd hole, but Watson missed. The senior Stadler took his son's victory in stride. "(Kevin) earned it. He deserved it."
Perhaps the best part is that with the win, worth $1.116 million and 500 FedEx Cup points, Kevin Stadler earned an automatic spot in the 2014 Masters. Because Craig won a green jacket, he'll also be returning to Augusta National and be in the year's first major with his son.
"It's going to be great for me because it's really my last one," Craig said. "I kept saying, you know, when he gets in, that's my last one. I'm going to have to get in a little better shape for the next three months. It's going to be great. It's awesome. I took him there, oh, ages ago, and I don't think he's been there since. Probably 20 years ago. It will be great, yeah. Awesome week."
As for Kevin, he was happy his dad watched the last two rounds and that he, too, will finally join him as a Masters' contestant. "That was in the forefront of my mind when I was out there," Kevin said. "He's obviously getting on in his career. He's probably only got - probably go ahead and assume this will be his last year that he will play there.
"He probably would have liked it better if I had gotten there five years ago so he can call it quits then. He's been telling me for a couple of years I need to hurry up and get there before he calls it quits."
Craig Stadler was proud how Kevin played down the stretch on Sunday. "He had a few little bumps in the middle there, but he didn't let them get them down, which in the past was his forte, which he got from me. He sucked it up and finished it. He didn't make a lot of birdies coming in, but Bubba made mistakes.
"On 18 he got a great break," added Craig. "Would have been great if he ended up hitting that (birdie) putt (on the 72nd hole), but it's his first one, and the first (victory) is so hard. Once you get that first one, it makes it so much easier down the road because you kind of figured it out. And the next time you say, 'You know what? I have done this before.' So good for him."
The 33-year-old Kevin responded to the question of whether winning more titles will now be easier. "Yeah, I guess so. I feel like I have gotten a lot better the last couple years, had a couple more chances. I have kind of had some ease keeping my card the last few years, but I really haven't had too many chances to win. I had a couple last year I let get by, and to pop one off early in the year is pretty cool."
Added his 60-year-old father, "I'm his biggest fan. He probably doesn't know it, but I love watching him play on TV and on the Internet. I don't get to watch him play live too often." Then Craig Stadler added some typical drollness. "We don't look even remotely close to each other," he said to laughter.
"With that being said, he's a great kid. I will say whether he's my son or somebody else, he's a hell of an iron player, one of the better iron players I have seen. Putting wins tournaments, and putting gets in his way, just like everybody else, no different than anybody else."
Craig then related one of his favorite - and earliest - memories of his son. "One of the coolest things I ever saw -it wasn't cool at the time. It was kind of a, 'Really?' At the U.S. Open and Pebble (Beach), we were out for lunch . . . he wasn't even two and a half years old.
"He was down there for three hours straight hitting balls, and I went to pick him up and go back and he just screamed Bloody Mary. You hope you get a two year old to focus on something for three minutes, but he was down there for almost four hours. It was awesome."
When asked whether being a Stadler put any undue pressure on him after he became a pro, Kevin said, "Not at all. It's the only last name I have ever had, so it's just normal for me. Everybody asks me that question, and I don't even think about it. I don't know - well, I guess I understand why people would expect it, but it's just normal."
Back to the Masters, Kevin said it'll be different at Augusta National than past visits because this year he'll be playing in the tournament. "I have been there a lot. I used to go when I was a kid all the time. It's been awhile. I don't remember the last time I was there. It's probably been seven or eight years.
"I think I have been once since I have been playing out here, and I kind of decided I didn't want to go back there until I could go tee it up. Just looking forward to everything. It's going to be really cool walking around there with my dad."