Ryder Cup pressure won't shake Snedeker, or his short game

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Brandt Snedeker opened with a 3-under 69 in the first round of the BMW Championship.
September 06, 2012
Bob Verdi, PGATOUR.COM

CARMEL, Ind. -- Brandt Snedeker literally was up in the air about his Ryder Cup situation. Upon leaving Boston on Monday night, he knew nothing. He had finished the Deutsche Bank Championship with a back nine of 31, one more than he required to complete Sunday's third round, as if to leave a couple lasting impressions for Davis Love III.

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"So, I felt at peace," recalled Snedeker. "I'd given it my best, and whatever the decision was, I would be OK with it."

When Snedeker arrived in Indianapolis for the BMW Championship at about 9:30 p.m., he checked his phone for information. It was there, sort of. At 8 EST sharp, Love had registered a voicemail. Snedeker retrieved it, hoping to hear congratulations and fearing the alternative, regrets. What he got was a somewhat cryptic clue from the United States captain: "I haven't been watching any golf and I wanted to know if you've been putting any good." Love's cell number was attached. This had to be great news, no?

"I figured if Davis hadn't made me a captain's pick, he wouldn't leave a message like that, would he?" Snedeker went on. "I know he's been watching a lot of golf. So, hopefully he knew that I have been putting well. When I finally got back to him, I was pumped, of course. And I still am. I am really looking forward to the Ryder Cup, and I am really going to appreciate it."

And, when it all begins at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago on Sept. 26, plan on Snedeker being sultan of the short stick. It's what he does. As he was saying Thursday, before opening with 69 at Crooked Stick in the third leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, "I am not a great ball-striker and I don't hit it long, but I manage to get it in the hole."

Those of us on the outside always assume that the principles are made aware of what's happening before formal announcements. But Love and his four assistants apparently can keep a secret better than most governments. There were no leaks about America's wildcards, only speculation stemming from a volatile circumstance created by a seriously deep talent pool.

"Davis did the right thing," said Snedeker. "If he knew before, he didn't let the word out. There was talk about how he and I have the same agent, and a lot of the same endorsements, and that we play some golf together. The Sea Island thing. But if you know Davis at all, you know he wouldn't be about nepotism. He had some difficult choices. Hunter Mahan is one of the best Americans in the world the last five years and he's not on the team. In a normal year, a lot of guys who aren't would be. In April, it's probably a much different team than it is now."

Whenever a rookie appears on the roster of a mega-event such as the Ryder Cup, fretting follows about how he can possibly assimilate the enormity of it all. Well, now, if you aren't introducing and indoctrinating youth, you have no future, whether you are the United States, Europe or the New York Yankees. As for Snedeker, the hunch here is that it is highly unlikely he will suffer stage fright. He has an excellent temperament, and he is highly intelligent. You don't go to Vanderbilt because you can sink 10-footers blindfolded.

"I expect to be amped and nervous and all that," said Snedeker. "But what are the chances that the guy I'm playing against isn't nervous too? None. I'll will just have to try to harness that emotion."

Besides, you've got to like a guy who has made it on the PGA TOUR with a body that could be donated to science. Snedeker has had both hips operated on, one in 2010, one in 2011. Too much bone, hereditary. His injury du jour for 2012 was a broken rib at the Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. Right in the middle of the season, out for five weeks. He spent quality time with his young daughter, Lily Hayes. As for wife Mandy, she married him for better or worse but not for lunch.

"She might have gotten a little sick of me," Snedeker confessed. "I was pretty depressed. I tell my parents, I'm 31 and falling apart. Didn't you feed me enough milk? But I came back fresh, played The Greenbrier and then did well at the British Open. A little adversity is good. Being away, realizing how fortunate I am to play golf for a living, that's good. Life is not easy. And trying to beat the guys out here is not easy. Now, at least for a week, I'm on the same side as people I've idolized. Tiger, Phil, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker. The way they play, the way they handle themselves. They do everything right."

Often, so do those green teamers. When the United States last won a Ryder Cup in 2008, there were six rookies on Capt. Paul Azinger's Louisville sluggers. When the United States retained the Presidents Cup in Australia last November, six rookies energized Capt. Fred Couples' squad. These "kids" like Snedeker have cracked the most competitive league in sports -- the PGA TOUR -- so to suppose that they will be out of their element, or out of their minds, is folly. They are not rookies to pressure.

"I look forward to everything about the Ryder Cup, including hanging out in the room," said Snedeker. "That's what we all miss, those of us who played on college, the group feeling. And that's what I hear about most from guys who have played in these before. It's not only the shots or putts that win matches. It's the good times in the team room."

Experience is nice, but not necessary, not when you have lost six of the last eight Ryder Cups. Some American veterans have ample scars to prove that experiences can also be bad, requiring selective amnesia when it's time to play for the flag again.

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