AUGUSTA, Ga. — Former Clemson golfer Kyle Stanley is in great shape for a splashy dash up the leaderboard if rain seeps into the Masters’ master plan to schedule ahead of a gloomy Sunday forecast with early start times.
Or Stanley can thrive in sunshine, as he proved Saturday with his best round in three Augusta National appearances.
It goes back to Gig Harbor, Wash., home of weather-proof golf games and Stanley, 31. He still resides in the town of approximately 10,000 people just a few umbrella outlet stores down the Puget Sound from Seattle.
Gig Harbor gets 43 inches of annual rainfall. That’s more than 10 inches above the national average.
So Stanley while growing up often played wet golf.
“Way worse than what I practice in now,” he said Saturday. “Temperature-wise, we can play year-round in the 40s, but it rains a lot. I practice in anything.”
Raincoats are more popular as Christmas presents in Gig Harbor than gift cards.
Galoshes are as fashionable as Nike gear.
Police issue caution warnings to strangers that drive convertibles in from out-of-state.
So Stanley was prepared Friday when the Augusta National weather horn went off and there was a break in play after playing partner Adam Scott teed off at No. 15.
“When we went back out it was about 25 (mph) in our face,” Stanley said. “The closing holes played quite difficult. The wind was swirling and it was raining. But I’m a Seattle guy.”
A ‘Go Tigers’ gallery
It’s been a surprisingly good week, considering Stanley missed six of the previous eight 2019 PGA Tour cuts (not counting the WGC-Dell Match Play). Maybe Gig Harbor-like, back-and-forth weather changes had something to do with that.
After making par over the final four holes in the rain Friday, Stanley came out and shot a 70 on Saturday to get to 2 under for the Masters. His low Augusta round followed a pair of 72s on Thursday and Friday.
He failed to make the cut in 2012. He shot 72-74-75-76 in 2018.
“Not too bad really, overall,” Stanley said of Saturday. “Conditions were great. It was a pretty nice day to play golf.”
Stanley played Saturday (with South Korea’s Si Woo Kim) between pairings including Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson. Some of those patrons were Clemson fans wearing orange.
“It’s been a lot of ‘Go Tigers’ out there,” Stanley said. “I’ve really felt the support out there this week. It’s been nice.”
Stanley had a shiny Clemson career, including All-America honors twice. He was runner-up for the NCAA individual championship in 2007 and 2009, losing by two shots to Southern Cal’s Jamie Lovemark and two to N.C. State’s Matt Hill.
But Stanley remains best known for his roller-coaster performance over two tournaments in 2012, his second year on the PGA Tour. Stanley blew a six-shot lead in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and lost to Brandt Snedeker on the second playoff hole.
Just a week later, Stanley surged from eight shots behind in the final round — the third largest comeback in PGA Tour history — to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open. First prize was a nice trophy and $1,098,000.
Few golfers have had to manage emotions over 11 days like that.
Bouncing back at No. 12
Such experiences help when facing Augusta adversity. Of all things, water gave Stanley trouble Saturday at No. 12. He popped his drive into Rae’s Creek, just in front of the 155-yard par 3 in Amen Corner.
Stanley got up and down to salvage a bogey.
“That felt like a birdie,” Stanley said.
And the round overall?
“Not too bad, really,” Stanley said. “Conditions were great. It was a pretty nice day to play golf.”
Kyle Stanley won’t win the Masters this year. But, like a web-footed critter adjusting to Weather Channel updates, he has put himself in good shape for a nice Augusta finish.
That must have gone over well to the folks back home in Gig Harbor.
Where, of course, it rained Saturday.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.