Snedeker's new swing validated with victory
February 15, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Brandt Snedeker made 23 birdies and just one bogey this week. He won by three strokes. (Harry How/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH Calif. -- Brandt Snedeker always knew he made the right decision. Even so, it felt mighty good to finally have something concrete, err, make that crystal, to show for it.
Snedeker's new swing, the one so carefully crafted over the last eight months in concert with Butch Harmon, held up under immense pressure on Sunday and enabled him to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the second time in three years.
Snedeker was near-flawless during the final round as he shot a 67 that enabled him to successfully negotiate the three-stroke victory and set a 72-hole scoring record of 20 under. In fact, the affable Tennessean only dropped a single shot in 72 holes as he put together what he called "probably the best thinking week I've had on the PGA TOUR.
"For me to play one bogey in 72 holes, I've never thought that that was possible."
Snedeker, though, is a more confident player after working with Harmon, who also coaches last year's Pebble Beach champion, Jimmy Walker, and Dustin Johnson, who won the tournament in 2009 and '10.
"He did a great job of kind of helping me understand how I swing the golf club, what I need to do to be successful," Snedeker said. "The great thing about Butch is he's not technical at all. He instills confidence in you when you don't even realize he's doing it.
"We might have a three-hour practice session and he might say one thing about my swing and 15 things about the mental side of it or what you should be thinking in certain situations or what he learned from Seve or Tiger or anybody else. He's got all these little nuggets that are great that come in handy on days like today."
Snedeker said Harmon was "in my ear all day" as he played Pebble Beach. One of those nuggets Snedeker remembered was to tee the ball down and try to hit it low on days like Sunday when hitting fairways is at a premium.
"I did that a lot on the back nine," Snedeker said. "When things got tough and I ... didn't feel like I was swinging great at it, but I was kind of managing it, doing something as simple as that kept the ball in the fairway and kept it in front of me and made me play to my strengths, which is my short game and my putting."
Snedeker said the shots he was able to hit under pressure on Sunday "validate" what he and Harmon have been working on since the U.S. Open last year. The changes have become so ingrained of late that Snedeker finally feels like he can just play golf again.
"It's fun to do that," Snedeker said with a smile.
When Snedeker won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two years ago, he was at the top of his game, a top-five player in the world. He came into this year's edition ranked 63rd and on the outside looking in as far as elite events like the Masters and World Golf Championships.
No more. As Snedeker was quick to say, he's relevant in golf again.
"I was as nervous as I've been in a long time," Snedeker said. "It felt good to feel those nerves again. Felt good to calm those nerves again. But there was so much on the line today. So much stuff going through my mind that I had to quiet down and keep focusing on the small stuff.
"But I got emotional on 18th green before I hit my putt because I realized how important this win is for me. Gets me back on track to where I feel like I belong.
"All the stuff I've been doing has been validated."
Brandt Snedeker wins by three strokes at AT&T Pebble Beach
PRO-AM WINNERS: The team title went to Pat Perez and his amateur partner, Michael Lund, who is one of the co-founders of Pandora Jewelry. The duo shot rounds of 60, 59, 63 and 63 to deny Brandt Snedeker and Toby Wilt a second pro-am in three years.
"It's the best week of my life," said Lund, who has an 8 handicap. "... Obviously when you come here you want to win, but I guess you just can't believe that it actually happened. So I'm loss of words."
Perez ended up tied for fourth in the individual competition, closing with his third straight 68 to finish 17 under and five behind Snedeker. He seemed just as jazzed by the team title, though.
"I kind of had a chance to win here but I knew I was going to have to play great to win on the individual," Perez said. "But I wanted it more for him than anything in the world, because I know what it means to him.
"... It's almost like I won. I really wanted it for him and we had a great time."
Perez said he was worried about Lund and "tried to keep him calm." In a weird way maybe it took the pressure off Perez, who is beginning to see results after switching to a new swing coach, Drew Steckel.
"After Vegas I was at that point again where I go what am I going to do now?" Perez said. "I'm playing so bad, it's been such a horrendous run these last six months. He got me straightened around and I couldn't be happier. It was just a great building week.
"I didn't win, but I felt like I won, because I hit a lot of great shot shots when I needed to on Sunday. I made some key putts that I needed to, and just I'm pretty happy about it. I'm looking forward to the year going forward now."
The lowest celebrity finisher was surfer Kelly Slater, who teamed with Marcel Siem to finish fourth. Dustin Johnson and his future father-in-law, NHL Hall of Famer, Wayne Gretzky, tied for sixth with Nick Watney and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and Jordan Spieth and country singer Jake Owen.
WATNEY IN CONTENTION AGAIN: Nick Watney can take plenty of positives from Sunday's runner-up finish to Brandt Snedeker at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
After all, for the second straight week, the lanky Californian was in contention during the final round. He forced the issue early with birdies on his first four holes to seize the lead briefly, then birdied his last two to break out of the pack and claim second place alone.
"It's a little bittersweet sitting here right now," Watney said. "But I'm very excited with the way that I'm playing and maybe next week."
The finish was his best since he was second at the 2013 BMW Championship. Watney, who tied for seventh the previous week at the Farmers Insurance Open, will see if the third time is the charm this week at the Northern Trust Open.
Watney is coming off an inconsistent year that saw his putting stats plummet just like his world ranking. He's no longer eligible for the Masters and World Golf Championships, which is a huge motivating factor for him.
"It was just kind of a snowball thing," Watney explained. "Putting bad and then you try to hit it closer and you miss short side, you make bogeys. Then you try to make birdies, you make more bogeys. ...
"I know what I need to work on, I'm doing it, and so the more distance I can put between myself and last year, the better."
Watney, who grew up in Sacramento, was also worried that his subpar season in 2013-14 would have an effect on who his amateur partner would be at Pebble Beach. So he couldn't have been happier to find himself paired with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.
"He was pretty much the marquee draw, for this area anyway," said the die-hard Giants fan. "I don't know, maybe some movie stars people want to see on TV. But everyone around here wants to see Buster.
"So when I got the pairing, I was thrilled. But then I was a little worried about being too happy being paired with him because he's somebody that I look up to and I root for really hard.
"And I've heard the saying don't meet your heroes because you'll be disappointed. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. He's a better guy than he is a baseball player. That's saying a lot. So, we had a great time."
Posey told Watney to get in touch if he was ever in the area and wanted to go to a game.
"I could watch him take BP or come into the clubhouse or whatever," Watney said. "I would be like a kid on Christmas for me."
WEB.COM TOUR MILESTONE: With Brandt Snedeker's victory on Sunday, the Web.com Tour has reached yet another milestone. He's just posted the 400th PGA TOUR win by a Web.com Tour grad.
Snedeker made 61 starts on the Web.com Tour from 2004-2006. His best season was his last when Snedeker won twice and finished second once -- with all three decisions coming in playoffs -- to finish ninth on the money list.
The playoff loss came in Chattanooga, no less, where the popular Tennessean battled Kyle Reifers. Two weeks later, Snedeker, who played collegiately at Vanderbilt, won the Scholarship America Showdown at Somerby in extra holes with Jeff Quinney.
His second Web.com Tour win came in October at the Permian Basin Charity Classic in sudden death with Aron Price. He ended the season with $300,918 to earn his PGA TOUR card.
JOHNSON BOUNCES BACK: Even though he missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open by a shot in his 2015 debut last week, Dustin Johnson felt pretty good about his game. And as it turns out, his faith was well-placed.
Johnson had even more success at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as he fired a 66 on Sunday to move into a tie for fourth at 17 under. The two-time champ finished strong with birdies on his last two holes that really got the juices flowing.
"Second week back out playing and it keeps feeling better and it's getting close," Johnson said. "It's going to be really good here soon."
Johnson hit 11 fairways and 10 greens in regulation on Sunday while using just 22 putts for his best tally of the week.
"My short game's feeling good, my touch is coming back, and I really feel like I'm swinging well," Johnson said. "So, I think that next week's going to be a good week too."
The South Carolinian, who played this week with his future father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, was to return to his adopted hometown of Los Angeles Sunday night. He'll play next week in the Northern Trust Open at storied Riviera where he wasrunner-up last year and has four top-10s total.
"I really like that golf course and I'm playing really well right now," Johnson said.
But there's another bonus -- he'll get to see his fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, and their newborn son, Tatum.
"My lady and my son are at home, so I did get some sleep this week," Johnson said. "But I can't wait to get home and see them tonight."
ACCIDENT AT THE 18TH: Matt Bettencourt's caddie, his brother-in-law Brian Rush, landed in the hospital on Sunday after being injured when he slipped down the craggy coastline beside the 18th fairway.
Bettencourt's tee shot had veered left and headed toward the Pacific Ocean. He and Rush could see several balls down on the beach, though, so they gingerly started picking their way down the hill.
"The tide was out on the beach, so we just made our way down the hill there and his left heel caught a piece of moss on the rock," Bettencourt said. "And I tried to grab him, was a couple inches away and the next thing I know -- I mean, he hit his head twice on the rock. He just bounced."
Rush suffered a concussion in the accident. He also broke his shoulder and sustained a compound fracture in his forearm.
It took 25 minutes for the EMTs to figure out exactly how to get Rush to safety without doing any more harm. They eventually had to strap him on a board and pull him up the hill.
Bettencourt, who was born in Alameda, California, had started on the 10th hole so he still had nine holes to play. A friend in the gallery, Carl Wesenberg, ended up toting his bag as Bettencourt finished off a 77 that was his high score of the week.
"It wasn't really good," he said. "... Just was kind of scared for him. When his bone went through his arm, it was compound, so that was bad."
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDA
Couldn't be happier for my guy Michael Lund. Worked hard for this moment, delivered & deserves to hoist that trophy!! pic.twitter.com/iQ2K1prVBg— Pat Perez (@PatPerezGolf) February 16, 2015
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Steve Wheatcroft’s laser approach is the Shot of the Day
CALL OF THE DAY
Listen to Doug Bell's call of Brandt Snedeker's par putt on No. 18 to win the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Click on the image below to check out our favorite images from the final round at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
ODDS & ENDS
Jason Day finished at 17-under 270 and tied for fourth. Had he won, Day would have become the first player to win in back-to-back weeks since Billy Horschel won the 2014 BMW Championship and TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. ...
With his final-round, 5-under 67, Snedeker has now posted 25 of 27 rounds of par-or-better since the start of this season. ...
Jim Furyk was taking the lead/co-lead into a final round for the 24th time this week. Of them, he has converted for victory nine times, but is now zero for his last nine attempts. The last event in which he closed the deal was the 2010 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. In 2014, Furyk lost a three-stroke lead in the final round of the RBC Canadian Open, and could not convert at The Barclays with a share of the lead after 54 holes.
Below are the scoring averages at Pebble Beach Golf Links for all four rounds.
Round Front 9 Back 9 Total First 34.615 35.442 70.058
Second 35.269 35.346 70.615
Third 34.769 35.135 69.904
Fourth 34.781 35.578