Backspin: Snedeker hitting stride againJuly 29, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Two years ago, Brandt Snedeker withdrew from The Honda Classic so he could be with his wife for the birth of the couples’ first child, Lily.
Fast forward to this past weekend in Canada when Hunter Mahan, leading the tournament at the time, did the same. The move opened the door for Snedeker, who trailed by eight through the first 36 holes at Glen Abbey. Karma.
The victory by Snedeker was his second of the season and suddenly puts him in the Player of the Year picture and more importantly gives him momentum going into a very busy part of the season.
Last week was the second of what figures to be nine straight starts for Snedeker, who is hoping to finish the season the way he started and become the first player to successfully defend his FedExCup title.
“It feels like two completely different years for me,” Snedeker said. “First part of the year, I couldn't do anything wrong. I was playing fantastic, and I got injured. I feel like I've been fighting to get myself back to the way I was at the beginning of the year.”
In case you’ve forgotten, Snedeker opened his season with four finishes in the top 3, including a win, in his first five starts.
Then he hurt his ribs, an injury that he sustained during his victory at Pebble Beach, missed a month and wasn’t the same player when he returned, missing the cut in his first two starts.
He has played well since, though, finishing sixth at the Masters, eighth at THE PLAYERS Championship, 17th at the U.S. Open and 11th at The Open Championship before his victory Sunday.
Snedeker also has the second-most wins (five) on the PGA TOUR since 2011, behind Only Tiger Woods (seven) and tying him with Rory McIlroy.
“I'm not saying I'm there, but I'm close to the way I was playing in the beginning of the year,” Snedeker said.
Sure seems like it.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Zoe will be getting a very nice baby gift from me. I can't thank Kandi enough for going into labor early, was I don't know if I'd be sitting here if she hadn't.” -- Snedeker following his win in Canada and the withdrawal of Mahan.
“I've been low Canadian once before, and it's obviously proud for me to do that here in front of everyone at home. It wasn't the finish I was looking for.” -- David Hearn , who broke 70 just once and finished in a tie for 44th. A Canadian hasn’t won his national Open since 1954.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
@HunterMahan: What a whirlwind of a day, but I'm happy to announce the birth of my daughter Zoe Olivia Mahan born at 3:26 am. Thanks for all the support! -- Mahan, following the birth of his first child Sunday morning.
@JohnHurleyGolf: Has anyone ever had the luxury of making par on the last 2 for 59 in a tour event?? Great work @rooknox! -- Web.com Tour player John Hurley with an astute observation of Russell Knox’s 59 Friday in Boise. It was the second 59 on the Web.com Tour in the last three weeks.
@BobbyGatesGolf: Just got detained by Canadian airport security..Something in my backpack had traces of fertilizer. 30 minutes later I was free. #golfcourse -- Bobby Gates on the sometimes bizarre travails (and travels) of professional golfers.
THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Don’t be surprised if Hunter Mahan wins the PGA Championship. For one, he’s played himself into the final pairing on Sunday each of the last two majors. For another, there’s some precedent. “I've won five times now since she was born two and a half years ago,” Brandt Snedeker said of his first child. “I think it puts golf in perspective. Out here can you place way too much importance on how you're swinging the golf club and how you play. Even though it is our career, it doesn't define who we are as people. I used to take everything way too seriously on the golf course. It used to be who I was. Now with a daughter and new young son, I realize they don't care at the end of the day if I shot 90 or 60. It really put a lot of importance on practicing smarter, being better on the golf course, about managing my emotions and realizing how unimportant every golf shot really was.”
2. What happened to Dustin Johnson on the 17th hole Sunday at Glen Abbey, where he was tied for the lead when he drove out of bounds? “I just blocked it a little bit, made a poor swing,” he said. Inopportune timing, of course, but also inexplicable given the situation.
3. With only three more weeks until the FedExCup Playoffs, a handful of players made significant moves in the standings. William McGirt jumped from 119th to 80th in the standings after his tie for second in Canada. Last year, it was a tie for 10th at The Barclays that helped McGirt finish inside the top 50 in the final standings, and he’s playing well now with nine straight rounds under par dating back to a second-round 69 at the John Deere Classic. Jason Bohn, who also tied for second, jumped from 137th to 93rd, while Greg Owen moved from 139th to 128th after a tie for 12th and Chad Campbell 136th to 127th after a tie for 16th.
4. So much for momentum. A week after winning for the first time in six years, Woody Austin was near dead last in Canada. The missed cut dropped Austin, who has made just five starts on TOUR this season, from 130th to 134th in the FedExCup standings, putting the 49-year-old in danger of missing the FedExCup Playoffs. No player (who wasn’t injured) since the inception of the FedExCup in 2007 has won a tournament and gone on to miss the Playoffs that season.
5. Speaking of the FedExCup, 2008 champion Vijay Singh is danger of missing the Playoffs for the first time in his career. Singh, who turned 50 earlier this year, has missed six of his last 10 cuts and dropped to 138th in the standings after his tie for 31st in Canada.
6. Jordan Spieth, who turned 20 years old over the weekend, won't miss the Playoffs. Erik Compton remembers the first time he met Spieth, at Riviera a few years ago. Spieth was a little shy then, but Compton, a bit of a teenage phenom in his own right before the setback of two heart transplants, says what has impressed him the most about Spieth is his maturity. “He’s like a veteran,” said Compton, who had breakfast with Spieth the day the teenager won for the first time at the John Deere Classic earlier this month. “He’s an extremely good athlete, too, and very developed for being 19. Only a few guys come around like that.” They also laughed about Spieth, who had played well all year but was only a Special Temporary Member, had to win to get into the Playoffs. Spieth has plenty more to smile about now.
7. Stat of the Week I: Snedeker took just 105 putts at Glen Abbey, where he had the second-fewest total putts in the field last week. He also ranked ninth in strokes gained-putting. In all six of his career wins, he hasn’t ranked outside the top 10 in the latter for that particular week.
8. State of the Week II: One other key area for Snedeker last week was his scrambling. He was 7-for-8, for example, in sand saves and got up and down from off the green several times on Sunday, including on four of his first five holes.
9. Stat of the Week III: The third-round leader or co-leader at the RBC Canadian Open has won 50 times since 1945. I don’t know why, but that seems awfully high.
MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
Sean Foley…The magic touch or pure fluke his players are playing well and winning? -- Richard Cartwright
Certainly not a fluke, Richard -- even if Foley would insist he has very little to do with the success of his players because they’re the ones who hit all the shots. Clearly, though, he knows what he’s doing. He knew well enough to help Tiger Woods with his putting posture (as did Steve Stricker), helped push Justin Rose to his first major and now has Lee Westwood in his stable because Westwood liked what he saw in the results of Foley’s pupils.
Any chance Tiger Woods and Steve Williams reunite? -- Andrew
No. Woods and Williams appeared to make at least some amends during The Open Championship, according to reports. But Williams is nearing the end of his career, telling me after his current employer and friend Adam Scott won the Masters that he plans to retire in the next year or two, or at the very least go down to a part-time situation. Woods is also plenty happy with his current caddie, Joe LaCava, a veteran looper who is a good fit for Woods.
FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
Oak Hill is a brut of a golf course, and until this past June it was the site of Tiger Woods’ highest four-day total in a major as a professional. But Woods come into this year’s PGA Championship in terrific form, and remember he did the back-to-back thing in 2007, following his victory at Firestone with one at Southern Hills. He’ll have to play and putt better on the weekend of the year’s final major than he has the first three of the year if he’s going to end a five-year drought. But Woods is also way too talented for this streak to drag on forever and now is as good a time as any it seems for it to end. One other player whose chances I really like: Hunter Mahan. He has played in the final Sunday pairing of each of the last two majors. He’s another guy who’s too talented not to win one eventually, so why not now? He’s coming off the birth of his first child and players often talk about fatherhood putting things in perspective and helping take the pressure off. He also drives it as well or better than anybody, which will be big next week.