Stallings on Cloud Nine after Big Win


Scott Stallings was planning on flying to Reno from White Sulfur Springs, W.V., on Monday after playing in the Greenbrier Classic. But the 26-year-old from Worchester, Mass., had a sudden change of plans.

On Sunday, Stallings survived a rollercoaster final round in fine fashion. He made the turn at Greenbrier's Old White course in 4-over 38, but reeled off five birdies in seven holes and another birdie on the last to tie Bill Haas and Bob Estes at 10-under 270. Then on the first sudden-death playoff hole, the par-3 18th, Stallings sank a birdie putt for the victory that altered his itinerary.

Instead of playing in the $3 million Reno-Tahoe Open, Stallings, with the win, earned a cherished spot in the $8.5 million WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at famed Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

"The charter flight was actually waiting on me to go to Reno," Stallings said Tuesday from Firestone. "We didn't know if I was going to Reno or coming here, and it was kind of confusing. My bags were going somewhere; we just weren't sure where . . . To be out here at a World Golf Championship my rookie year is something that is truly special, and I'll be looking forward to getting on the course later today."

The PGA Tour rookie will be paired with Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open champion, who is just one of the major winners in the elite-field tournament, which will also feature the year's three major champions - 10th-ranked Charl Schwartzel (Masters), fifth-ranked Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open) and Darren Clarke (British Open).

It will also feature the rest of world's top-10 players: Luke Donald (No. 1), Lee Westwood, (2), Martin Kaymer (3), Steve Stricker (4), Phil Mickelson (6), Dustin Johnson (7), Jason Day (8) and Nick Watney (9). Also playing for the first time this week is 14-time major winner, Tiger Woods, who's been rehabilitating his injured left leg since the Players Championship in mid-May.

Stallings is obviously thrilled to be in such company. "A World Golf Championship this week is incredible, the best field in the world, and to be a part of it is a true blessing . . . to be in a tournament of this magnitude, being a World Golf Championship, and just everything that goes along with it, the purse is bigger, the field is better, the FedEx Cup points are higher.

"There's just a lot more that goes on in a tournament like this. I've never played in a major; I've never played in a World Golf Championship. It's just a lot of newness for me being a part of this field. I look forward to the opportunity on Thursday and be ready to go."

Here's what else Stallings had to tell reporters during a Q&A in Akron.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Scott Stallings. Scott, exciting win last week at the Greenbrier. If you want to talk about what it's been like since, and obviously a big change of plans coming to the Bridgestone Invitational this week, and then we'll take a few questions.

SCOTT STALLINGS: It was incredible. Obviously, to be out here and playing the PGA Tour is a dream and something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid. But to be a champion and to be a winner especially at such a great event, the Greenbrier, is something I can't really put into words. It's an experience that I'll never forget. I don't know, definitely a change of plans. The charter flight was actually waiting on me to go to Reno. And when we got done, we didn't know if I was going to Reno or coming here, and it was kind of confusing. My bags were going somewhere; we just weren't sure where. It's been kind of a whirlwind getting here, but the media has been great, the fans, a bunch of people from home have been phenomenal, a lot of phone calls, a lot of texts, emails. And to be out here at a World Golf Championship my rookie year is something that is truly special, and I'll be looking forward to getting on the course later today.

Q. You say you got a lot of texts. Did anything really stand out? And what did Kenny have to say to you?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Kenny (Perry), I think, was more excited than I was. I've spoken with him twice now, and I mean, he has gone more than out of his way to make me feel welcome on the PGA Tour as a mentor, as a friend, as a fellow player, and has really been key to my success this year, has been definitely a person to ask questions to every single week, good or bad. And he's definitely been a huge blessing to me, and his wife, Sandy, too, for my wife Jennifer, someone to ask questions, kind of bounce things back and forth off of. That's a relationship that I definitely didn't expect it to go as far as it did, but I'm very thankful that it has.

Q. When did you hear from him?

SCOTT STALLINGS: I texted - we texted back and forth Sunday night, and we kind of played phone tag here and there, but I actually talked to him when we landed in Akron yesterday and told him I was here. And he screamed and yelled and said he ran all over his living room when I won. It's nice to have a guy like that that's had the career that he has to get that excited about me winning a golf tournament, a person that's definitely a Hall of Famer, and someone that I've looked up to in my golf career as well as he's played in his career and have a person like that be that excited about my win is truly special.

Q. Have you seen the course before at all? And if you have not, how does that change your approach to your practice rounds that you're going to have here?

SCOTT STALLINGS: This week is nice because there's no pro-am, and that definitely -- yesterday was a whirlwind. I was exhausted. Had the worst night's sleep of the year Sunday night. I don't even know if I slept at all. I kept waking up every 30 minutes. I was super excited. Obviously I was pumped to come here and be a part of the tournament. But to kind of take care of some of the media stuff we did yesterday and so on and so forth, but to come do some of this stuff this morning and be able to get nine holes in this afternoon. My caddie is on the course today and he's kind of refreshed just to know that he can get out there and be by myself and kind of get back to his job.

This afternoon we'll get back to work. We'll have some lunch and kind of assess what we need to do for the rest of the week just to get prepared for Thursday. Obviously it's a great tournament, it's a great field, it's an honor to be here, and to be part of a great event, and definitely look forward to getting out there and playing nine holes back-to-back days, and I'm looking forward to being rested and ready for Thursday.

Q. How does it feel to have so many young players like yourself winning? Is that what you expected when you were growing up looking at the Tour? Did you think when you got there it would be a lot of young players or is it kind of a surprise? Did it have a different image?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Golf looks a lot different now than it did when I was growing up because everyone was so much older than me, when I was the little kid on the outside of the ropes just trying to learn as much as I possibly could. But with guys like Keegan and Jhonattan Vegas and Chris Kirk and guys like that winning and all good friends of mine and the success that they've had, especially with them going on a similar track that I have on the many tours, the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour, and just being able to chat with them. Guys like Gary Woodland, I played with him on Saturday and being able to ask him questions about winning and the different things that he's gone through. There's so many different things you can learn from the older guys on Tour, but also the guys that are a little bit ahead of you as far as your career, as far as the guys that have won, and to be able just to ask questions and learn. But also to see guys that are similar in career to myself and to see that they've done it, it also kind of spurs you on that, hey, if they can do it, I can do it, as well.

Q. Do you think there's any advantage to being young? Do you think that you and your younger friends have more of a relaxed approach or kind of a different attitude than maybe the older guys do?

SCOTT STALLINGS: I don't know. I feel like I have the best job in the world. I love what I do. I love waking up every single day. I love this game. Any opportunity that I have to be -- I love the stage that we're on. Obviously a World Golf Championship this week is incredible, the best field in the world, and to be a part of it is a true blessing. But you know, in all honesty, I didn't really know what it was going to look like when I got out here to answer your first question. And I think that now that I'm out here, I haven't really had time - I haven't really thought of it that way, and there are a lot of young guys out here. There are a lot of my buddies that I grew up playing mini-Tour golf with, junior golf with, college golf, they've all had an opportunity to be out here. And it's really something that -- it's special to be out here and share with some guys. I saw Keegan at the hotel this morning. He came and dropped his bag and slapped me on the back, and I had a chance to chat with him. It's really cool to have guys like that be out here that are in the same boat that I am, just ecstatic to be a part of the tournament and be part of this week.

Q. Like the foreign players that are around your age, do you think that they have a different sort of approach or attitude at all than Americans do?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Not necessarily. I mean, if anyone is like myself, I'm just excited to play no matter where it is. Whether it was going to be Reno this week or a World Golf Championship, I was excited to go play. Like I said earlier, I feel like I have the best job in the world, and any opportunity I have to play, especially in a PGA Tour event, I'm going to be excited to go out there. I don't necessarily think there's an advantage or disadvantage, I think it's just more or less that it's a game that I love to play and I love the stage that I get to play on.

Q. The flipside of that question about young players, what do you feel about -- how does it feel, Tiger is back this week after having been off for almost three months.

SCOTT STALLINGS: Well, I was like anybody; I'm a player but I'm also a fan, and Tiger was the person that made golf cool, especially when I was growing up, through middle school, and everything. He was the one that everyone looked to, the young up-and-coming guy. And to have him come back, his first tournament back since the Players Championship -- I was actually first alternate at the Players, and I was in the locker room when he withdrew. He was in obvious pain. And to have him be a part of the field, I mean, golf is better with him here, and to -- I'm a fan, so I was actually watching the press conference when he was here and just interested in what he had to say and encouraged by just him being in the tournament and just everything that comes along with him being a part of it and definitely look forward to having him back and hopefully get him back to where he has been, and I look forward to seeing where that takes him.

Q. Did you say anything to him when you saw him in the locker room?

SCOTT STALLINGS: No, there was so much going on when he withdrew. It was just more or less you saw the physical pain that he was in when he walked through the locker room. No one really knew what to do as far as the players. There was another - Cameron Tringale was another alternate. We were in the locker room kind of waiting it out, trying to see if we were going to have an opportunity to play. When he walked in, the zoo of media kind of followed him around, and we kind of hung back and kind of observed. But that's definitely a feeling I'll never forget, kind of being on the outside looking in. But luckily now I've secured my place in the tournament for next year, and I look forward to going down there and being a part of the Players.

Q. Do you expect any nerves with this being your first World Golf Championship event when you get on the first tee on Thursday?

SCOTT STALLINGS: I don't think there's necessarily nerves, I think there's a sense of anxiousness because you get so excited to be out there and be a part of the tournament. Every first round you kind of -- you're ready to get going, you're ready to get out of the gates. Obviously to be a tournament of this magnitude, being a World Golf Championship, and just everything that goes along with it, the purse is bigger, the field is better, the FedEx Cup points are higher. There's just a lot more that goes on in a tournament like this. I've never played in a major; I've never played in a World Golf Championship. It's just a lot of newness for me being a part of this field. I look forward to the opportunity on Thursday and be ready to go.

Q. Have you ever seen Firestone on television or anything like that? And if you have, what were your impressions if you remember them?

SCOTT STALLINGS: I have. I've watched a lot of golf. I've watched -- obviously Tiger has won here seven times and I'm very familiar with his career and all the things that he's done. The course looks incredible. I actually spoke with Kenny about it quite in depth yesterday as far as the ins and outs and things he thinks he should watch out for and things like that.And I'm sure I'll speak with him again before the tournament starts on Thursday after I've had a chance to see the course. I look forward to it. It looks to be in incredible shape. I walked around just a little bit yesterday, but today will be my first time actually on the course.

Q. You said Tiger was the one who made golf cool, but I would assume you're a little too old to consider yourself the Tiger generation. Was he kind of your inspiration in any way?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Absolutely. I mean, I graduated high school in 2003. So '97 when he won the Masters, I was in sixth grade. Tiger is not that much older than I am, but being in middle school and seeing a guy like that to be 21 and winning The Masters by the margin that he did and seeing the exuberance that he showed, hitting a pitching wedge into 15 in '97, man, no one hits pitching wedge into that hole, and just blowing away the field. I remember the 9-iron he hit on either Saturday or Sunday on No. 11 to a front, left flag. I said, man, that's the best shot I've ever seen. To be in sixth or seventh grade, and just to call upon shots that you used to watch a guy hit, especially a guy you looked up to as much as that, and just to kind of learn from watching him -- I actually had the opportunity to go watch him play at East Lake the year before he won. He blew the field away. And he started off terrible. He was 2-over through 4, and he hit it way right on No. 5, the downhill long par-4, and he made some crazy par, and I ended up watching the rest of his round just seeing how he grinded it out. I think you can learn so much from just watching some of the greatest players in the world, and it's definitely a testament to watching him and following his career for sure.

Q. A lot of guys who won their first tournament on Tour might have taken it easy on Monday and maybe done other things, but you got here pretty quick, didn't you?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Yeah. To be honest, I really didn't have an option. We had to get the transportation guy back here at some point, so it just seemed right to take -- go from the airport to here and get our transportation. He was very gracious to bring us back here and bring our car to us. I took care of the registration and had an opportunity to go and kind of celebrate with the Titleist guys a little bit yesterday afternoon, have an incredible equipment company. They've been incredible, all the reps and the staff have been unbelievable to me as far as my rookie year and helping me get accustomed to new surroundings, life on Tour, the equipment, the golf course is incredible. Hats off to them; they make incredible equipment. They make incredible equipment for me, and I'm very thankful for my relationship with them. So I did a little bit with them and did a tiny bit on the golf course, just got my yardage book, kind of discussed a little bit with my caddie as far as a plan for the week and did a couple different media things. Then we got out of here, and I had to do some things last night. But for the most part it wasn't too taxing.

Q. But having fun?

SCOTT STALLINGS: I've had a blast. It's been a whirlwind for sure. I've spent more time in front of a phone and a computer than I have in my entire life the last two days, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Q. What do you do to blow off steam because it's such an intense sport? What are your techniques for letting go of the stress?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Anything, anything to kind of get a distraction from what we do out here, whether it's a movie, whether it's a game, whether it's just basically anything my wife wants to do. Just kind of comes down to just -- depends on where we're at. I spoke in depth after winning the Greenbrier about how excited I was to go to Boston. I was born just outside the city in Worcester, Massachusetts. So any opportunity I had to be around Boston and to be a part of anything that has to do with the Red Sox and New England sports in general, I'm happy to be there. So anxious to get there. It just kind of depends on where we are around. This week will be a little bit more about rest, just coming from the emotional roller coaster of the last 48 hours of my life. But just kind of depends, there's not necessarily one thing I do.

Q. Are you going to be watching the Red Sox and the Indians all week then?

SCOTT STALLINGS: I will. I will.

Q. I was just curious, this might sound sort of corny, but now I would assume you can play on some of those courses and hit some shots you watched as a sixth grader. Will you do that goofing around in a practice round?

SCOTT STALLINGS: Absolutely. The shot I'm probably most excited to hit is skipping it across the water on 16 at Augusta. One of my best friends actually plays on the Nationwide Tour, a guy named Scott Brown. He's having a great year out there this year. He actually lives in Augusta and I got a call from him, just happened to have my phone with me when he called. And he said, I've got your room ready. He actually grew up caddying out there, and he's going to go out there with me, see some of my practice rounds. He said, man, I'm going to show you how to hit that shot so that during the tournament you don't look dumb, just so I can actually have an opportunity to hit some of those shots so when all the people are out there I've done it before.

Yeah, definitely looking forward to going back and seeing some of the places. You know, you think of shots like No. 7 where Phil hit the shot from the right trees when he went on to win a couple years ago. All the different memorable shots you think about, especially Tiger's chip shot on 16, to go and actually see it and actually have the opportunity to mimic it. It's incredible to think about playing in the tournament and going back to probably the most historic golf course in the world.

Q. Will you try to skip it across the water on 16 here?

SCOTT STALLINGS: We'll see. Hopefully I won't have to mess with it. Hopefully I won't have to try that, but maybe, we'll see.

MODERATOR: Scott, thanks for your time, and good luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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