x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Brandt Snedeker on cusp of making breakthrough into greatness

Entering his prime at 32, gregarious Snedeker seeks to continue his six-month assault on the game's upper echelon after head-turning start in 2013.

Brandt Snedeker waves to the gallery at Pebble Beach on his way to victory.
Brandt Snedeker waves to the gallery at Pebble Beach on his way to victory.

Rory McIlroy left scorched earth on multiple continents over the final months of last season, and Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have already won over the opening weeks of 2013 in the States.

But none of them, even remotely, qualifies as the hottest player on the planet at the moment.

That laudable distinction goes to the fastest-playing, fastest-talking player on the PGA Tour, seven-year veteran Brandt Snedeker, who speaks in staccato machine-gun bursts that make stenographers cringe and sportswriters laugh. He can pile up the birdies in a hurry, too.

It was almost exactly seven years ago when Snedeker, playing his rookie season on the PGA Tour, first began to endear himself to the masses. He flirted with a 59 on the North Course at Torrey Pines before finishing with a 61 and was hauled into the press room for the first time.

In one of the funniest, self-deprecating asides in years, it was noted that fans watching his round seemed confused about the pronunciation of his unusual surname. Snedeker, who has charisma to burn and barely an ounce of ego, said it didn't bother him at all.

"As long as they give an effort, I don't care," he shrugged. "I've heard it butchered so many times that it's no big deal. I've got 'snot licker' before, so I don't think it could get any worse than that."

They've been saying it often lately. Correctly, too.

In the headiest stretch of his career, the 32 year old counts a victory among his four top-three finishes this season. He won last weekend in convincing fashion at Pebble Beach and has climbed to career-best No 4 in the world ranking - which seems a bit low, considering.

Outside of Rory McIlroy, who has five, no player has more PGA Tour wins since the start of the 2011 season. Like Woods, Snedeker has four.

Where does he go from here? Honest to a fault, Snedeker freely acknowledges that he's in the "second tier" of players, as he puts it, and realises that to make the leap, he has to contend and win at majors.

Entering his purported prime physically, Snedeker might be on the cusp of a big breakthrough, or he might be the flavour of the month. The data suggests he is playing a bit over his head, finding fairways and greens at a far-higher clip than in 2012, which represented a career year in itself.

His putting stroke, though, is as pure as any in the game and he led the tour in that category last year, which augers well for Augusta National in April - although injury will rob him of a place at the Match Play next week.

Of his success at Pebble Beach, he said: "I had not won yet [this year], but I had complete faith I was going to, whether it was today, or next week or the week after," he said.

At this rate, he might win those starts as well.



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