AUGUSTA, Ga. – Kyle Stanley, who grew up in Gig Harbor and went to Bellarmine Prep, feels as though he’s back home in the South. He played college golf at Clemson, which is about two hours away in South Carolina.
But he won’t be able to stay on the practice range at Augusta National the way he did at college.
Along with having family in the South, one thing that appealed to Stanley about Clemson was a lighted driving range that coach Larry Penley had installed near the football field.
“You could pretty much practice whenever you wanted. It was pretty cool,” Stanley said.
The latest he stayed out there was 3 a.m., and he never deviated from his routine. His last shot had to be his best one, or he wouldn’t leave. Stanley said there were times he got all the way out to his car, wasn’t satisfied and returned to the range until he hit his best shot.
A strong work ethic took time to develop.
Stanley said a turning point in his golf career came when he was in high school and missed the cut in the state tournament at Spokane. He faced a four-hour drive home with his father.
“I remember just talking to my dad and he kind of explained to me, ‘Listen, if you want to be really good, if you want to be one of the best players in the world, you’re going to have to work at it,’” Stanley said.
“I made the transformation pretty quickly.”
His role model was Vijay Singh because of the long hours the former Masters champions puts in on the range.
It has brought Stanley to a big stage. He is a Masters rookie. He was tested early this year by making triple bogey on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines to lose a three-shot lead and the resulting playoff to Brandt Snedeker. A week later, Stanley made up an eight-shot deficit in the final round to win the Phoenix Open and earn a spot at the Masters.
“It feels like it’s been a long year already,” Stanley said. “There’s a couple of weeks that definitely took a little bit out of me.”
Adam Scott can be sure of one thing this week. His caddie knows his way around the course.
This will be Scott’s first Masters with Steve Williams on the bag, and Scott believes that can only help – the histrionics involving Tiger Woods’ former caddie notwithstanding.
After all, Williams was Woods’ caddie for three of Tiger’s four Masters victories and can negotiate his way around the Augusta National layout.
“Look, it doesn’t matter where I go, it seems, with Stevie. He’s got a lot of experience everywhere,” Scott said. “He’s been caddying 30-plus years, and he has obviously been very successful everywhere.
“He’s got a great knowledge of this golf course, and hopefully at some point there’s going to be that time when his knowledge shines through for us.”
Williams was heavily criticized last August, when his over-the-top celebration and impromptu news conference after Scott’s win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was seen as an angry swipe at Woods.
Then again, he won’t tone down completely. Scott said, “He’s a very motivated guy, and he’s out here to compete.”