SAN DIEGO — Hang gliders were taking off from the cliffs behind the 13th tee at Torrey Pines where Kyle Stanley was waiting to tee off on the 524-yard hole. Then, the 24-year-old launched a shot that was just as majestic.
“Wait ‘til to you see where this one went,” caddie Brett Waldman said.
On another clear day along the Pacific coast, it was hard not to notice.
In a familiar performance — even if the name might not be all that familiar now — Stanley overpowered the South Course on Saturday on his way to a 4-under 68 that gave him a five-shot lead going into the final round at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“For some reason, I’ve always been long,” said Stanley, who has a slight but athletic build and generates enormous speed. “But if you take a golf course like this where you’re hitting 7-irons into par 5s and short irons into long par 4s, it definitely helps.”
Stanley chose to lay up on the par-5 18th with the large pond in front, and spun a wedge near the hole to about 4 feet. About his only regret in the third round was missing that putt. One last birdie would have broken the 54-hole tournament record that Woods set in 1998, before Rees Jones beefed up the South Course to 7,698 yards for the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I think he’s definitely influenced me, and a lot of other people, too,” Stanley said.
Stanley can’t recall ever having a lead this large, which can be troublesome if looked upon as only an opportunity to fail.
“I think the biggest thing is you can’t necessarily go out there and try to protect it,” Stanley said. “You’ve got to really just keep doing what got you to this point. I’m not going to be any more conservative tomorrow. I’ll stick to my game plan off the tee, and hopefully just continue to give myself a lot of chances.”
He hit driver on all but three holes, and four of them traveled at least 320 yards, a big number considering Torrey Pines is just a cliff over sea level and even in pleasant weather, the ball doesn’t go quite as far as summer in Ohio.
Big numbers are nothing new for Stanley, however.
He recalls coming down to the Titleist Performance Institute when he was a 17-year-old in his senior year in high school. His ball speed was measured at 184 mph.