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Fan's Take: Is Kyle Stanley a Rising PGA Star?

Yahoo Contributor Network

In his second full season on the PGA Tour, Kyle Stanley could be posed for a breakout year. The former Clemson star is already making a mark in the first couple of months of 2012. He earned his first ever PGA Tour victory with a dramatic rally at the Phoenix Open and also finished second at the Farmers Insurance Open.

It has been good enough to put Stanley atop the money leaderboard. He has earned $1,843,515 through five tournaments. To put it in perspective, Phil Mickelson ranks second with $1,789,931, while also playing in five tournaments thus far. Stanley is also the FedEx Cup points leader with 889 points. That total is 49 more points than second-place golfer Johnson Wagner.

Stanley's ride on top comes in a season where he experienced one of the worst meltdowns in recent memory. He suffered a crushing second-place finish in the Farmer's Insurance Open at Torrey Pines after blowing a six-stroke lead on the final day. Stanley shot 74 in the final round and eventually lost to Brandt Snedeker on the second playoff hole. The lowest point came on the 18th hole, where Stanley still led by three strokes until he notched a triple-bogey on a par-5 to open the door so Snedeker could force a playoff.

Stanley turned the tables a week later, though, at the Phoenix Open. He rallied from eight strokes back on the final day when he shot a 6-under 65. The highlight of his final round performance was that it featured no bogeys--a welcome relief after the problems Stanley experienced going over par during the final round in Phoenix.

Two top-10 finishes and a Tour victory offer evidence that Stanley has made tremendous strides from 2011. He managed four top-10 finishes during his rookie campaign, including a second-place finish at the John Deere Classic. Stanley did not finish any higher than ninth place in the rest of his tournaments. Judging by how he has fared early in 2012, it might not be too premature to predict that plenty of more top-10 finishes--and more victories--will be on the way before the year is over.

John Coon enjoys getting in a round from time to time in the Salt Lake City area when he is not covering golf as a freelance sports reporter.

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