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WHITE SULPHER SPRINGS, W.Va. -- He almost let it slip away early in the day with an unspectacular front nine. He almost let it slip away late in the day with a bogey on No. 17.
But in the end, former Tennessee Tech All-American Scott Stallings, a PGA Tour rookie, won the Greenbrier Classic in dramatic fashion on Sunday, sinking a birdie putt on No. 18, then repeating that feat on the first playoff hole -- the same hole -- to beat Bob Estes and Bill Haas.
After watching Estes and Haas miss their birdie attempts on the 168-yard 18th hole, Stallings curled in a 7-footer for his first career Tour victory. He flipped his putter, then hugged and high-fived his caddie.
"The day definitely didn't start off right. I blew it way right off the first tee and really struggled to find the fairway after the first nine holes," Stalling explained. "On No. 10, my caddie (Josh Graham) kind of needled me and said, 'finally we're going to hit the fairway'. I said, I promise, I promise we can play better from the fairway. He said, 'We're going to get back to even par and we're going to have an opportunity to win the tournament'.
"He told me that through the whole nine," Stallings continued. "Even though I made a few pars here and there, he said, 'We're going to have a chance; we're going to have a chance; we're going to have a chance'. I stuck with him all throughout the day, and he did an incredible job.
"I had an opportunity to birdie 18 to get in the playoff and have the exact same shot. I actually put my ball on the same tee that I used in the same spot during regulation," Stallings said.
Stallings made six birdies on the back nine to make the playoff, where he earned a winner's check of $1.08 million, moved to 26th in the FedExCup standings and grabbed a spot in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. With his win, Stallings will also compete next April in the Master's in Augusta.
In just its second year, the Greenbrier Classic produced another dramatic finish. Stuart Appleby shot 59 in last year's final round, including a birdie on the last hole to beat Jeff Overton by a stroke.
Estes shot 6-under 64 and was the clubhouse leader at 10 under, then watched as Haas birdied the par-5 17th six groups later to join him after a 67.
Stallings, who shot 69, bogeyed the par-5 17th after his drive went out of bounds and he needed a birdie at No. 18 to make the playoff. He sank a 5-footer to do it.
After last year's tournament, the course was lengthened more than 200 yards and the reseeded greens were less receptive to approach shots this time around. Appleby and Phil Mickelson were among those missing the cut, and the low rounds of the tournament were 62s shot by Anthony Kim and Walker on Saturday.
Stallings started the day a shot out of the lead and seemed to take himself out of contention with three bogeys on the front nine. He responded with four birdies on the first five holes on the back, then hit a 103-yard wedge within a foot of the hole on the par-4 16th to move to 10 under before getting into trouble on No. 17.
"Well, I think this round was the tale of two nines," Stallings said. "The front nine I couldn't do anything right; the back nine I had pretty good control of what I was doing. It was unfortunate we had to wait for 30 minutes on 17. I mean, that's a hole that looks really good to my eye and I felt good about it. But I got a little tight and made a bad swing and got a bad break and hit the tree and went into the water."
(Photo at left: Stallings is congratulated by James Normand, a sophomore on the Golden Eagle football team who was at the Greenbrier Classic. Normand and Stallings are both from Oak Ridge, Tenn.)
Stallings had words of praise for the tournament, held at one of the nation's most beautiful resorts located in the West Virginia mountains.
"The Greenbrier has been absolutely incredible," Stallings said. "The fans, volunteers, everybody that came and put the tournament together has been absolutely phenomenal. One of the best, if not "the" best tournament on tour, and I can't wait to come back. And to be a champion of such a great event it was a huge blessings, and I'll never forget it for sure."
Asked about his huge payday, Stallings said winning the championship is the culmination of a boyhood dream.
"All the money and everything takes care of itself. I mean, if you're out here, the money is great. It's a huge bonus. But I've wanted to do this since I was a little kid," Stallings said. "Like I've said before, I was that little boy running around chasing autographs and yelling at guys because they wouldn't stop and sign my golf balls or so on and so forth.
"But to wake up every single day and to have a dream about playing out here and watching golf with my dad growing up and just saying, Hey, how did you do this? How did you do that? Just trying to learn from watching guys on TV. And then to have the opportunity to become really, really good friends with one of the best players in the history of the game in Kenny (Perry) and to be able to call him a really good friend and mentor has been a huge blessing."
According to Ohio Valley Conference records, Stallings is the first OVC golfer to win a PGA Tour championship.
NOTES ABOUT SCOTT STALLINGS
|• PGA TOUR rookie Scott Stallings carded a 1-under 69 on Sunday and then birdied the first extra hole to defeat Bill Haas and PGA TOUR veteran Bob Estes to win The Greenbrier Classic. With the win Stallings earns 500 FedExCup points and moves from No. 88 to No. 26 in the point standings.|
|• Stallings, the 10th first-time winner this season, is the sixth rookie winner (the most on TOUR dating to 1970). Other rookie winners in 2011 include Jhonattan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel, Brendan Steele, Keegan Bradley and Chris Kirk.|
|• With the victory, Stallings earns a ticket into next week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.|
|• The playoff on Sunday, the first of Stallings' career, was the 13th of the season on the PGA TOUR.|
|• Stallings, at the age of 26 years, 4 months and 6 days, is the 12th winner under the age of 30 this season. Last year, there were 16 winners in their 20s.|
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