After two second-place finishes in as many weeks, at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, Brandt Snedeker, the 2012 FedEx Cup champion, took command of the final round of the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, shed his “bridesmaid” status and took his lead all the way to the altar of the 18th green.
Snedeker came to the first tee tied for first place with James Hahn of Alameda. Hahn had moved into the tie with a late-round charge at Spyglass Hill on Saturday afternoon, when he closed his round with three consecutive birdies.
Snedeker made a move early in the round with an eagle at the par-5 second, capitalizing on a flawless approach shot which landed left of the flag and rolled up to four feet from the pin. He kept his foot down from there, carding three more birdies in the next five holes before giving a stroke back with a three-putt bogey at the ninth hole. He played clean, nearly flawless golf the remainder of the round, birdying the final cliffside hole, #10, and the uphill 11th, where the course turns inland, away from the coast.
Leading by four strokes at that point, the 32-year-old Vanderbilt grad parred his way along the inland run of the course, firing precision irons from immaculate fairway position on every hole. Already the top-ranked putter on Tour, Snedeker enhanced his standing with ten one-putt greens from as far away as 26 feet, 9 inches, and only one three-putt, for the bogey at the ninth hole. Faced with a downhill putt from nearly 38 feet above the hole on the 9th’s notoriously difficult green, he ran it fifteen feet past the hole, then rolled the comeback par putt to 4 inches for a tap-in bogey.
Playing in the group ahead of Snedeker, Chris Kirk was closing the gap between himself and Snedeker with a string of birdies while Snedeker was making pars. When Snedeker arrived at the 17th tee his lead was down to one stroke, Kirk having closed with a birdie on 18. Another precision strike at the par-3 17th left Snedeker 10 feet away, with a makeable uphill putt which he knew he could be aggressive with. Rolling that putt in for birdie gave him a two-stroke lead going into the eighteenth hole.
Asked about his mindset as he waited on the tee at 18, Snedeker responded, “There’s not much better place to be on the planet with a two-shot lead than on that tee box. A one-shot lead would have been a completely different story, but that two-shot lead, it felt pretty good there.”
Snedeker played smart, conservative golf on the eighteenth hole to bring the round to a close, laying up with a 220-yard hybrid off the tee, then an iron to 131 yards. With a wedge to 33 feet from the flag, two putts brought him home for the win.
Snedeker’s win also cemented a tie at the top spot in the pro-am for him and his playing partner, Nashville, Tennessee, businessman Toby Wilt. This is the ninth time in the history of the tournament that the tournament winner was part of the winning pro-am team.
The win at Pebble Beach moves Snedeker up two spots in the Official World Golf Rankings, to #4, passing 5th-place Louis Oosthuizen and displacing Justin Rose from the #4 spot. He is now the second-ranked American golfer in the world, two spots behind Tiger Woods.
Snedeker aspires to improve that position, hoping to become the #1-ranked American golfer. He can still walk down the street without being recognized, but accepts that the situation might change if he achieves that goal.
He may not be well known to the public at large, like the current #1-ranked American, Tiger Woods, but golf fans know him, and his recent record speaks for itself: since 2011, the players with the most PGA TOUR wins are Rory McIlroy (5), Tiger Woods (4), and Brandt Snedeker (4). If that trend continues, Brandt Snedeker might be setting his sights too low if he is just aiming at #1 American.