By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Everyone likes the long ball, and Brandt Snedeker was no exception.
Once he brought the game that had earned him All-American honors at Vanderbilt and a U.S. Amateur Public Links title on his resume to the PGA TOUR, though, Snedeker learned quickly that he came up short in that department.
So instead of watching Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and wondering why he couldn't go the distance, Snedeker made a conscious decision to study players who made the most out of the other things they did well. If Jim Furyk and David Toms could win majors, why not him? If Steve Stricker could become golf's Mr. September shouldn't Snedeker be able to, as well?
"The more time I spent watching those guys play golf, the more I realized what I need to do to compete on a worldwide level," Snedeker said. "I give those guys a lot of credit because I watched them do it day-in and day-out for like the last five years.
"You watch those guys pick their way around a golf course ... and what their strengths are and what they need to focus on. So it really kind of inspired me."
Snedeker certainly has put on a clinic of late, too, winning twice in his last six starts, including Sunday's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and finishing runner-up to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the two previous weeks. He's played 19 rounds this year and shot in the 60s in all but three of them, and he is a cumulative 82 under for the season.
In fact, only Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who rank Nos. 1-2 in the world, have won more times in the last year than Snedeker. He says he feels like he's been waking up in a dream world since his stellar run through the FedExCup Playoffs that ended with a victory in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and the $10 million bonus last year.
"It's been pretty unbelievable," said Snedeker, who owns the points lead once again. "To win the golf tournaments I've won and in contention as much as I have, you know, probably with not very much fanfare and people thinking, ‘I don't hit the ball very long, I'm not the best ball striker.’
"But somehow all my parts end up being pretty good at the end of the day."
Someone else will have the spotlight in Los Angeles next week while the freckle-faced strawberry-blond Snedeker is in Hawaii catching up on his sleep, playing with his two young children and lathering up with sunscreen. But look for Snedeker to return refreshed and reinvigorated in Tucson for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship where the top 64 players in the world will try to take him down.
Snedeker's red-hot start certainly hasn't been lost on his peers, either.
On Sunday night, Zach Johnson tweeted: "Congrats Sneds. Dang. Slow down. It's a long season." And former world No. 1 Luke Donald, who makes his 2013 PGA TOUR debut next week ended his congratulations with the hashtag #OnFire.
With his recent surge, Snedeker has risen to No. 4 in the world. His designs, though, are even higher and the understated and uber-modest man from Tennessee, who was 36th at the start of 2012, firmly believes he can get there, even if his name hasn't really been in the conversation until now.
"When you start winning and putting stuff on top of stuff, it becomes very, very possible," Snedeker said. "Obviously I have some great guys in front of me that are playing some pretty great golf right now but I'm not in control of that. All I can do is go out there and win and put myself in position like I have the last few weeks."
Another player in the Furyk-Stricker-Toms mode actually has inspired Snedeker in the quest to become No. 1. Donald, who occupied the spot for 56 weeks, won't be winning any long-driving contests, either, but he gets the most from his game.
"He did it by simply being the most consistent player in the world," Snedeker said. "... You have to do everything really well and he gave us the blueprint."
In reality, though, Snedeker's blueprint for success may have been mapped out when he sat down with his inner circle -- coach Todd Anderson, trainer Randy Myers and caddie Scott Vail -- after he missed the cut at the PGA Championship last year. Their confidence in him was life-affirming, as were the lengths everyone was willing to go to help him succeed.
"You need people who believe in you 110 percent, even when you don't see it," Snedeker said.
The next step for Snedeker is obvious, and the path begins at Augusta National, the same course that reduced him to tears in 2008 after he grabbed a share of the lead with an eagle at No. 2 on Sunday only to make eight bogeys over his last 16 holes. But Snedeker, who has posted top 10s in three other majors, is more comfortable in his own skin now, and he'll return knowing that winning is not a "farfetched" idea.
"I know that if I play the way I played the last three weeks that there's very few people in the world that can beat me," Snedeker said. "And I will relish that challenge being there Sunday trying to beat the best player in the world or whoever it may be down the back nine at Augusta.
"That's something I look forward to instead of dreading maybe four years ago."