The last time Brandt Snedeker came this close to winning the Masters, he wept uncontrollably, distraught that the tournament he’s dreamed of winning since he was a child slipped through his fingers.
On Sunday, the only tears after the final round were from his 2-year-old daughter.
”I’m not as crushed as I was in 2008 because I know I’m going to be there again,” Snedeker said. ”I know this golf course so well and I putted about as poorly as I could today, and I still had a chance on the back nine. I’m very disappointed that I didn’t win, but I realize that I’m not that far off from winning this thing.
”I’m going to do it soon.”
The co-leader after the third round, Snedeker couldn’t make a putt Sunday on his way to a 3-over 75. After scratching his way through the front, he opened the back nine with two straight bogeys, including a miss from 3 feet on 10, to fall three strokes off the lead. With the two par-5s still to play, however, he wasn’t out of it.
Then he put his approach shot on 13 in Rae’s Creek.
As the ball splashed into the water, Snedeker grimaced and bent both ends of his hybrid club, looking as if he wanted to snap it.
”I didn’t, I needed that club on 15,” he said. ”I was in-between clubs and I took the longer club and tried to cut a ball off that fairway, which is really difficult to do. But it was the only way I had a chance of getting it close. My 4-iron wouldn’t have made it and the hybrid, if I hit it normal is too much. So I tried to cut it and came out of it and hit it where you can’t hit it.”
Snedeker managed to save par, only to make bogey on the 14th. The closest he would come to the green jacket this year was watching playing partner Angel Cabrera force a playoff with eventual winner Adam Scott.
”Any time you have a chance to win the Masters and you don’t come through — my lifelong dream — you’re going to be upset, you’re going to cry, you know, but I’ll get through it,” Snedeker said. ”I’m playing great, I look forward to what the next weeks are going to hold. And I’m going to come back here next year and I’m going to do my best to get in that last group again.”
Five years ago, Snedeker was thrilled to find himself in the final group on Sunday in his first Masters as a professional. He was 27, just two years removed from the Nationwide Tour.
The moment proved to be too much, and he managed only six pars in the entire round as he blew up with a 77. Afterward, his voice shook as he tried to control his emotions. He finally gave up, burying his face in his towel as he sobbed.
But Snedeker, despite his youthful looks, is no longer that wide-eyed kid.
He won the Tour Championship last year, beating Rory McIlroy. There was a three-week stretch earlier this season when he was the hottest player in golf, finishing second to Tiger Woods at the Farmers, second to Phil Mickelson in Phoenix and capping the run with a win at Pebble Beach.
Snedeker was unflappable as he climbed into a share of the lead Saturday, opening with 12 pars and making three birdies over his final six holes to take a one-stroke lead with Cabrera. Being in the final group was no longer enough, he said Saturday night, he wanted to win it and was ready to do so.
”I’m not here to get a good finish,” he said. ”I’m not here to finish top five. I’m here to win, and that’s all I’m going to be focused on tomorrow. I realize what I have to do to do that, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that happens.”
Nerves weren’t an issue, Snedeker said. His putter was.
”I did not putt the way you’re supposed to putt around Augusta, I just never had the speed,” Snedeker said. ”If I putt the way I normally putt and don’t make those two loose swings, I’m right there with a chance to win the golf tournament.
”But I’m pretty excited with the way I played,” he said. ”I know that if I do that again, play the exact same way again and I putt the way I normally do, I got a chance.”
That’s why there were no tears.
Make no mistake, though, this finish was every bit as gutting as that one in 2008, even if it didn’t look it.
”It’s going to be more difficult tonight because I had a really good chance at the end of the day if I do what I normally do,” he said. ”It will be tough to sit there and watch the playoff and actually hear what happens. It’s going to be a tough night. A tough couple days.”