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By Ryan Woodcock

Through 63 holes of the Waste Management Phoenix Open it looked like the Gateway Pro Tour would produce back-to-back winners on the PGA TOUR.  Last week Brandt Snedeker won in a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open, and this week Spencer Levin looked like he was going to run away from the field for his first career victory.

But as we witnessed last week when Kyle Stanley lost a three-shot lead on the final hole to lose in a playoff, golf can sometimes be cruel and Levin fell victim to same fate that Stanley did.

Levin opened with a 65, then put together a fantastic 8-under 63 in round two to take a three shot lead.  His third-round 68 grew his lead to six shots going into the final round, and it appeared he would coast to a victory.  He started off a little shaky on the front nine in the final round, but made a clutch par-saving putt on the ninth hole to keep his lead at four shots over Ben Crane and Stanley. 

But then he started to find some trouble.  After making just two bogeys in the first three rounds, he had four bogeys and a double on the final day, including a stretch where he was five-over on holes 11-15, which included a double-bogey on the par-5 15th which saw him hit the cart path off his drive, punch out of a cholla cactus for his second shot, and hit his third shot into the water. 

“I was aiming right off the tee, trying to draw it with the wind, and I felt like I made a pretty good swing and it stayed straight, and I saw it bounce really big, and I knew that probably wouldn’t be very good,” Levin said after his round.  “Yeah, it was under a cactus. I got it out in play, hit a good second shot to get it in play, and then the third shot I didn’t feel like I hit that bad a shot. I pushed it a little bit, but I guess I didn’t hit enough club. I thought 4 iron would go over the green and 5 iron didn’t carry. So I don’t know what happened, I just came out of it a little bit, I guess. But when that ball went in the water it was a complete shock to me. I was thinking it would fly in the bunker, let alone not carry the water. So that was kind of tough there.”

He fell two shots back of Kyle Stanley after his costly double-bogey, and he couldn’t make up any ground over the next three holes (par-par-par) on his way to a solo third place finish at 13-under par. 

He was extremely disappointed after his round, but he remained positive.  This was Levin’s second best finish on the PGA TOUR (finished second at Mayakoba Classic), and he’s coming off a 2011 campaign where he notched six Top-10 finishes. 

“I’ve just got to find a way to maybe just tell myself it is a big deal because that’s what we all strive for, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not,” he said.  “My family still loves me, my friends are still my friends, and I’m still going to eat dinner tonight. I guess I’ve just got to go with that mindset next time I’m in that situation because I did not think like that today at all.”

For the week, a total of 25 GPT alums made the cut, with three finishing in the Top-10 and six finishing in the Top-20. 

Brendan Steele and Bubba Watson both shot 11-under for the tournament and finished T5.  Watson played in the final group with Levin and Webb Simpson and shot a 1-under 70 in the final round to notch his third Top-10 of this young season, while Steele put together a solid final-round 64 to jump into the Top-5, his best finish so far this year.

Chris Stroud shot rounds of 68-70-66-71 to finished T12, his second Top-15 of the year; while Martin Flores and Marc Leishman finished T19 at 7-under par. 

Other notables in the field include Gary Woodland, who finished T26 at 6-under par; J.B. Holmes and Sean O’Hair, who finished T45 at 3-under par; and last week’s winner Brandt Snedeker, who shot rounds of 71-70-73-68 to finish T50 at 2-under par. 

For complete results from the WM Phoenix Open, CLICK HERE

Next up on the PGA TOUR is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Feb. 9-12.  We’ll be keeping an eye on Spencer Levin – who knows, maybe he can rebound with a win just like Kyle Stanley did last week.  Check back here to see how he and the rest of the GPT alums fare at Pebble Beach. 

Good luck everyone!