SAN DIEGO — What the Farmers Insurance Open lacked in star power on Sunday – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson didn't make it to the final round – the tournament more than made up for it with tense theater for six hours.
With a cast of characters turning the final day into a shootout on a beautiful stage above the shores of the Pacific Ocean, predicting a winner was a futile exercise as the top of the leaderboard was in a constant state of flux.
At one time there were 19 players within two shots of the lead; 10 players at one time or another held at least a share of the lead.
LEADERBOARD: Farmers Insurance Open
But when the final act concluded under cloudy skies, Scott Stallings, with four birdies in his last eight holes, won the third PGA Title of his career. With a 4-under-par 68 on the South Course at Torrey Pines, Stallings finished at 9 under, one shot clear of K.J. Choi (66), Marc Leishman (71), Graham DeLaet (68), Jason Day (68) and Pat Perez (70), who worked at Torrey Pines his youth.
Three players finished at 7 under, including Ryo Ishikawa (70).
Stallings made sure there would be no playoff when he made birdie on the par-5 18th, his second shot from 227 yards just clearing the pond in front of the green. His ball ended up on the fringe a, from where he got up-and-down.
As he approached the shot, Stallings was thinking back to last year's Humana Challenge when he faced a similar circumstance: going for the green in two on the final hole to make birdie to win. With a 6-iron in his hands, he ended up in the water and finished with a bogey and one stroke out of a playoff. This time, his 4-iron found land, and led to victory.
"No," Stallings said when asked if he considered not going for the green in two. "As a player, all you want is chances. I was playing to win. Any player out here would tell you if you have 4-iron in your hand and you need to get it on the green and then two-putt to win, we're all going for it."
Despite hitting only four of 14 fairways, Stallings ended up celebrating on the practice putting green with his wife, Jennifer, and 11-month-old son, Finn. He said a key was not looking at the leaderboard to see where he stood despite all the chaos around him.
"On this course, the moment you look at the leaderboard to see what anyone else is doing, it beats you down," said Stallings, who moved his family to Scottsdale, Ariz. this winter so he could practice and play every day. "You let your mind go and you're going to make double-bogey."
Gary Woodland, who held a one-shot lead after 54 holes, saw his chances dashed with a double-bogey 6 on the 17th hole when his tee shot ended up in a bush in a hazard. He shot 74 and finished at 6 under and said afterward the loss would "be hard to swallow. felt like I kind of gave one away," he said.
Reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year Jordan Spieth, who led after 36 holes and started the day one shot out of the lead, grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on the third hole. But bothered by a bum ankle, he bogeyed 15, 16 and 18 for a 75, finishing at 4 under.
Perez, who used to pick the driving range here when he was growing up, nearly picked up his second career Tour title. A bogey on the 16th damaged his chances. Needing to hole out from the fairway on the 18th, Perez spun hit his third shot to 3 feet and then tapped in for birdie – but one shot out of the lead.
"It's great and bad," said Perez, whose dad announces the players on the first tee. "It's great that I was in contention and nice to be there again on the weekend, especially for this tournament, which I want to win more than anything. But I came up short. I had a chance and I had the bogey on 16 and then I missed that short one on 17. It stings, but it was fun. It was a great run."
Woods, the world No. 1 and defending champion who was looking for a record ninth win here, missed the secondary cut on Saturday when he shot 79, his worst score in 14 starts at Torrey Pines.
He did not speak to reporters affterwards but said he was a "fraction" off during the first two rounds. He is playing this week in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.
Mickelson tweaked his back shortly before Thursday's first round and struggled with pain throughout 36 holes before withdrawing Friday night. He hopes to defend his title this week in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and then play the following week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.