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Greenbrier champ in line for much-needed payday

DUBLIN, Ohio - At the end of last July, Scott Stallings left the grounds of The Greenbrier with a nifty $1 million-plus check.

Ten months later, he has come to the Course That Jack Built needing another paycheck. Six figures would be fine, or even something topping $50K. Or anything at all.

This weekend, Stallings will finish in the money at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. He is playing on the weekend for the first time since he finished tied for 27th at the Masters - eight long weeks ago.

After surviving a rain-delayed, chilly, windy Friday, Stallings not only lived to play Saturday, he will begin on the first page of the leader board. He followed up his first-round 66 with a 73 - not a bad score on such a lousy day.

His 5-under-par 139 put him in a tie for second place, one stroke behind Rory Sabbatini. The others in second? Spencer Levine and that Tiger Woods guy.

Stallings needs a big tournament, especially against the Memorial's stacked field. He has made just three cuts this year this year and hasn't finished under par since the season-opening Tournament of Champions - a perk of his 2011 Greenbrier Classic victory. The $74,500 check is still his largest of the season.

The Greenbrier win gave him job security through 2013, but that hasn't eased the pain of a tough season.

It also didn't ease the literal pain in his ribs, which needless to say affected his play. He hurt himself Jan. 18 on the PGA Tour's West Coast swing, during the Humana Challenge.

"I tore cartilage in five of my ribs," Stallings said. "We thought it was sprained, but come to find out that there was torn cartilage, which was unfortunate. ... I played thinking it was going to get better, but it kept getting worse."

I can see that. I mean, doesn't that hurt when you breathe?

Stallings went 12 over, 13 over and 7 over in one stretch. It didn't help that he couldn't resume his full training program until two weeks ago. This is one of the Tour's linebackers, somebody who no doubt can find a weight room.

He says he is finally playing pain-free, and it showed Friday off the tee. He blew a pair past the 320-yard barrier, and hit several others at least 293 yards. He hit more fairways than not, and recovered well on the few he missed.

Teeing off on No. 10, Stallings started with a crazy bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey, then bogeyed the 16th. He birdied back to 5-under with a 5-foot putt, set up by a shot from the right rough.

When he made the turn and birdied No. 2, I thought he was heading for another sub-70 round, which would have been huge on a day with just seven such scores. The wind, falling temperatures and the rain-altered greens - spongy but still fast - troubled the field.

Down the stretch, Stallings' putter betrayed him. He missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the fifth, a painful 4-footer for birdie on the par-5 seventh and a 10-foot par putt on the par-3 eighth. That came after a 25-putt round Thursday, including a 37-foot birdie putt and a chip-in for an eagle.

"I mean, it felt pretty good," Stallings said. "I definitely felt like I left a few out there the last five or six holes, burned a lot of edges coming in, but I hit a lot of really good shots."

If he keeps hitting shots and managing the course well, this tournament could do for his 2012 season what The Greenbrier did for his 2011.

Again, he needs it: He is 162nd on the money list and the FedExCup standings, and has plummeted to 167th in the world rankings.

He has not qualified for another major tournament, and will play in the 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday in the Memphis area - a day before he is scheduled to appear at The Greenbrier Classic's media day.

If he stays near the top, I expect to see the same upbeat character who ran down the hill at the 18th green to join a three-man playoff at Old White. Even if he tumbles a bit, he has pain-free ribs and renewed confidence.

"Yeah, I definitely felt like my game was right in form," Stallings said. "My coach came into town for three days, and we kind of got after it pretty good and had some long days on the range.

"He wasn't really concerned about my swing or anything like that; he was more or less trying to make sure I was confident, and when I stepped on the tee I was prepared to play."

And to make a little money once again.   

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  • Among the players a stroke behind Stallings at 4 under is West Virginian Daniel Summerhays.

    Did I wake you up there?

    Hailing from Farmington, Utah, and graduating from Brigham Young, he's not one of us, but he does have roots in Greenbrier County. His grandmother on his father's side grew up there, and there are still members of the Patton family in the area. The family held a reunion around Summerhays' 2011 Greenbrier Classic appearance.

    Summerhays, his wife Emily and three young boys (ages 4, 21/2 and 2 weeks) will tour the U.S. in their motor home this summer, even camping out of it at the Classic.

    "West Virginia, mountain mama," Summerhays said with a smile. "I named my son after [my grandmother], Patton."

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com.

     


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