Snedeker finding stroke at right time
Winning once on the PGA Tour is difficult enough. But that second victory can be even more elusive.
Just ask Brandt Snedeker.
Snedeker shot 9-under-par 63 in the final round to capture the 2007 Wyndham Championship as a tour rookie but went four years without another victory before last month’s Heritage, despite having several chances to win — including nine top 5s — in between.
"A long time," Snedeker mused after beating Luke Donald in a playoff, preventing the Englishman from becoming No. 1 in the world golf rankings. "I know it's been four years, (but) it seems a lot longer than that.
"I can't put it into words how much this win means to me, because the first one was my rookie year. You come out here and don't really know what to expect. To win like that was kind of out of nowhere. And to win this time, after all the hard work I put in the last three or four years, trying to improve, trying to get better, I feel like my game is finally there."
Snedeker, who is playing this week in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, has climbed back into the top 50 in the rankings and put himself in position to finally reach the potential he showed while winning the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship as a junior at Vanderbilt.
However, since winning at Harbour Town, he has missed back-to-back cuts, including last week in the Players Championship, and needs a strong showing in Texas to get some momentum heading toward the three summer majors.
Being in the top 50 will make it easier because it qualifies a player for the majors, the World Golf Championship events and the big invitational tournaments.
"You definitely pay a little bit of attention to it because the tour is so geared to that right now," said Snedeker, who has finished in the top 10 five times this season and ranks 12th in the FedEx Cup standings.
"A lot of tournaments are based on world ranking, and so you pay attention to it. You want to be in that top 50 in the world, kind of a magic number, gets you in all the events.
"But at the end of the day ... my year is successful if I get to the FedEx Championship in Atlanta. That's where I want to get every year. That's what I base my year on."
Snedeker, who won twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2006, made a big splash in another tournament in Georgia when he tied for third in the 2008 Masters despite closing with a 5-over 77.
In the process, he impressed a certain golf legend he played alongside while shooting 69-68-70 in the first three rounds.
"He's a terrific young man," said Tom Watson, who added that Snedeker reminded him a bit of himself at the same age. "He gets it, if you get my meaning. He gets what it takes to not only play professional golf, but he also knows how to handle himself the right way. I really admire that about him."
It didn't end there.
Watson telephoned Snedeker to console him after that final-round pratfall in the Sunday pressure-cooker that is Augusta National.
"I'll never forget that phone conversation," said the 30-year-old Snedeker. "He said, 'Brandt, there's nothing I can say that's going to make you feel any better. I shot 79 in the last round when I led my first major (the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot). How you deal with it and move on is what's going to define you as a player. I believe you're going to learn from it and be better for it.'
"He said it with that deep voice, which always carries so much conviction and meaning. ... He's still my hero and the nicest guy in the world."
Snedeker isn't one to make excuses, but part of the reason he has not played well in recent seasons can be traced to injuries.
In 2009, he missed the cut nine times in his first 12 tournaments, including the last four in a row, and couldn't play in the Players Championship in May because of a nagging rib injury.
Then he had surgery for a torn labrum late last year after struggling through the second half of the season, and he subsequently missed the cut in three of his first five tournaments this year before withdrawing after a first-round 72 at The Honda Classic in March. But Snedeker knew he was back on the right track.
Snedeker got things going by finishing fourth in the Transitions Championship in March, tied for 15th at the Masters and fourth again in the Valero Texas Open before his victory at Harbour Town.
"Just getting healthy," Snedeker said of the uptick in his game. "I had some surgery in the offseason and took about 12 weeks away from the game. That is what it took to get me healthy again.
"When I came back at the Bob Hope I was 100 percent healthy (his first tournament of the season, where he missed the cut), my golf swing felt great, and I just really played great golf all year. I've missed some cuts, and people were calling me going, 'What's going on? Why are you missing so many cuts?' And I said, 'I can't explain it to you because I'm playing great and just getting some bad breaks here and there, just having one of those weeks where nothing goes right.'
"I broke through (at the Heritage), and everybody is starting to realize now that, yeah, you're right, you are playing pretty good."
He's hoping that second win brings a second wind.