It's very hard to win a golf tournament, whether it's your first or your 97th.
For the record, the two main tournaments Sunday were won by Robert Rock and Brandt Snedeker. They'll be more remembered, if at all, for the men who didn't win: Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi and Kyle Stanley at Torrey Pines.
Woods entered the final round tied for the lead with Rock, a 34-year-old Englishman with 24 top-10 finishes in 229 events on the European Tour. Ten years ago, Rock was the pro at a driving range, while Woods had already completed the career Grand Slam.
The phrase all week was "He's back!" Woods was striking the ball well - he made 17 of 18 greens in regulation in Thursday's opening round - and putting better as the tournament progressed.
But playing well enough to win over four rounds is very different from doing it for three, particularly when you're trying to ingrain the new habits of an altered swing. Sunday is unlike the other days, with anxiety and adrenaline combining to undermine a player's rhythm and touch.
Woods hit just two fairways all day, only six greens in regulation. Playing with his co-leader, he made two early bogeys and fell three shots behind. When Rock faltered and Tiger seemed ready to charge, with a birdie on the ninth to pull within one, he immediately handed back a stroke with a 6 on the par-5 10th.
He can say all he wants that he's "close," but there is no close in golf.
Every poor shot sows doubt, when the brain and body need calm and confidence. Young Tiger Woods missed a lot of drives, but he never missed an important putt. He didn't know he could miss.
He knows now. And that transmits pressure all through the bag.
His putter let him down Thursday, when he hit those 17 greens and made just two birdies. His Sunday failure, when a journeyman looked him in the eye and outplayed him, is just one more reminder that he's no longer the supremely mentally tough, transcendent golfer he used to be.
For Kyle Stanley, the lesson is different.
The 24-year-old opened the Farmers Insurance Open with a 62 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, followed with a pair of 68s on the more formidable South and took a five-shot lead into the final round.
It was just his second serious chance for victory, in his second season on the PGA Tour. In 2011, he trailed Steve Stricker by five shots with nine to play at the John Deere Classic. Stanley birdied five of the next six holes to take the lead, only to lose when he bogeyed 18 and Stricker made a 25-foot putt from off the green for the winning birdie.
On Sunday, Stanley was 21 under at the turn, seven ahead of Snedeker. He stood on the final tee with his lead down to three, a safe-looking margin with an easily reachable par-5 to play.
His drive found the intermediate rough. With 236 yards to the hole, he laid up short of the pond in front of the green, leaving himself a three-quarter sand wedge to the pin. The ball landed on the slope past the pin, but with too much spin. It zipped past the hole, rolled off the green, seemed to pause twice on the front slope, then continued down into the drink.
Now hitting his fifth shot, he made the safety-first play he should have on the previous swing, leaving it 40 feet above the hole. His first putt was too careful, stopping 4 feet short. On his left-breaking downhiller for the win, he barely grazed the edge of the hole, winding up with a triple-bogey 8 and a shocking tie for the lead.
In the playoff, beginning on 18, Snedeker again hit a third-shot wedge close. This time Stanley went long on his second but chipped to 3 feet, and both made their birdie putts. On the second playoff hole, the two left themselves 5-footers for par. Snedeker made his, but then Stanley pushed his to the right to complete his implosion.
It was one of the worst final-hole collapses in PGA Tour history, mostly the result of a single shot that had a little too much spin. He said all the right things afterward: "I know I'll be back. I'm not worried about that. ... I just need to be patient. One of my goals coming into this year was to just keep putting myself in position, and I'll do that."
He can take comfort from the example of Robert Garrigus, who gave away the St. Jude Classic in 2010 with an equally bad triple-bogey on the last hole, dropping into a playoff from which he was quickly eliminated. Five months later, he won his first tour event, the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World.
It was Snedeker's third tour victory, one that required him to shoot the day's low round, wait around in the unlikely event of a playoff, refocus once the playoff became a reality, birdie 18 twice and make a key par putt on the second sudden-death hole.
It's very hard to win a golf tournament, even when somebody hands you one.