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Jonathan Wall

It's time to start paying attention to Kyle Stanley

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Rory Sabbatini was supposed to be the big story of the day on Friday. After tying the the course record with a 6-under 64 in blustery conditions, it seemed like there was nothing that could keep the South African from being the headliner going into the weekend ... until an unheralded 23-year-old rookie showed up and stole the show.

Kyle Stanley didn't match Sabbatini's 64, but he did post an equally impressive 4-under 66 to take a one-shot lead at the midway point of the Honda Classic. While there's still 36 holes left in the tournament, the way Stanley's been playing this year, you almost have to imagine he'll be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon.

After all, he's been planning for this moment his entire life. I'm not kidding. Since Stanley was just a kid, he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up, and that was win tournaments on the PGA Tour. Forget just making it to golf's biggest stage -- Stanley never for one second doubted that he'd be on tour -- he's had a win-tournaments-or-bust attitude since he was young.

While he may be a rookie, he's been playing like a tour veteran this year, making the cut in every event he's played in. But like most first-timers on tour, he's had trouble stringing together four good rounds. "I feel like I've been playing well all year but haven't quite put four good rounds together," Stanley said after Friday's round. "I'm getting better, and that's the main thing."

There's no doubt he'll continue to get better -- especially with his Vijay Singh-like work ethic that's become a staple of his game. Clemson head coach Larry Penley can still remember working with Stanley on his game under the lights, sometimes until 11 p.m., to perfect his swing. It's that kind of tireless work ethic that makes you believe it won't be long before the Clemson grad is hoisting a trophy of his own.

He's still rookie, so he's bound to have some bumps along the way. But the way Stanley plays the game, never really getting too high or too low, you almost have to think he's got an edge of some tour rookies that are just happy to be out here for the first time in their career. Who knows, maybe this is his week. Judging by the way he's handled the weather at PGA National, there's a good chance he could become the second PGA Tour rookie to win on tour this season.


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