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    • Snedeker looks to bounce back

    • Defending champion Brandt Snedeker looks for another great showing at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Warshaw/Getty Images) Defending champion Brandt Snedeker looks for another great showing at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Warshaw/Getty Images)

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Seven years, six wins and one FedExCup title into his PGA TOUR career, Brandt Snedeker says he still feels like a kid sometimes.

    "I don't think of myself as one of those guys that's done all this stuff," the affable Tennessean said candidly. "I'm still just this kid trying to figure it out in my mind."

    Well, that mission certainly appeared accomplished this time last year when Snedeker fired a final-round 65 to beat Chris Kirk by two strokes at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

    The round was his fourth in the 60s that week -- and his 16th sub-70 tally in the 19 times he'd teed it up that year. Not coincidentally, Snedeker had finished second the previous two weeks and third in the season opener on Maui during the five-event phenomenal stretch.

    Turns out, the only thing capable of slowing Snedeker down was himself. He had injured a rib during the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation and aggravated it again that Thursday at Pebble Beach.

    So Snedeker left the Monterey Peninsula for a family vacation in Hawaii and rehab and didn't return to competition for six weeks. He went on to win the RBC Canadian Open -- and a second straight two-win season was certainly an accomplishment -- but Snedeker never regained the momentum he'd had earlier in the year.

    "Anytime you've got a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum and you get hurt, you come back (and) there's a lot of uncertainties as to how your body's going to feel, how your game's going to feel," he explained.

    “I felt I was at a stretch where I could do no wrong and everything seemed to be going the right way.  … Then to find that confidence again -- I had moments where I had it again last year but I didn't have the consistency I had at the beginning of the year. So that was tough."

    The biggest challenge for Snedeker, generally regarded as one of the game’s best putters, has been regaining consistency with the flat stick. He ended the season ranked fourth in strokes gained-putting after leading the category the previous year.

    But something was missing -- and he hasn’t quite found it, either. After five events this year, Snedeker ranks 56th in the all-important putting category that measures a player’s performance against the field.

    “My putting has been bad the start of this year, it was mediocre at times middle of last year, just real streaky, which is unlike me,” Snedeker said. “… So I've been working on it hard and it's close, I can do it on the putting green, I just can't do it on the golf course.  So it's frustrating, but that's golf.

    “It makes you think you got to figure it out; it let's you know that you know absolutely nothing.  And I'm still working on it and hopefully I can get the consistency back at some point.”

    Snedeker is also working on his fitness. Last year’s rib injury was the latest in a series of body breakdowns – he cracked another one in 2012 and he has had two hip surgeries, as well.

    So Snedeker has made some dietary changes – cutting out two of his favorite things, soft drinks and fast food. The 33-year-old has lasted three weeks now and says he’s noticed a change.

    “I'm not happier, because I'm not eating the stuff I love ‑‑ but my body feels better,” Snedeker said.  “… I've had way too many injuries for a guy my age, so I'm trying everything I can think of to counteract that. …  And if I get through a whole year without an injury, I'll probably stick to it."

    As he returns to Pebble Beach for his title defense, Snedeker feels his game is "really close" to the level at which he was playing a year ago. That said, he's the first to admit his results this season don't show it -- a tie for 11th in a 30-man field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is his best in five events.

    But Snedeker is optimistic – particularly after watching a replay of last year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the Golf Channel Tuesday night.

    "I feel like I'm doing a lot of things a lot better than I was last year and just not quite coming through," he said. "So I'm excited. This next ... little stretch for me should entail some pretty good golf."

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