By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Brandt Snedeker used to be a great putter and an inconsistent ball-striker. That has changed. He is 11th in greens in regulation and 25th in strokes gained-putting this season. Compare those numbers to 2012, when he was 132nd and first, respectively. What accounts for the difference? Snedeker says he was giving away too many shots by shooting at too many pins. He is more concerned now about angles off the tee. Snedeker is still frustrated with his putting this year, claiming he is missing his line on many of the greens, but his course management has improved so much that he is able to win without his usual putting stroke. He hit 13 of 14 fairways in the final round and for the week found 56 of 72 greens while ranking eighth in strokes gained-putting. That combination will win an awful lot of tournaments this year.
Toughest hole: They used the back tee on the ninth hole, stretching the par 4 to 496 yards and golfers struggled. It was the toughest hole on the course, playing to a 4.286 stroke average. There were just five birdies the whole day while golfers stumbled to 20 bogeys. Just hitting the green wasn’t enough. Snedeker played safely to the middle of the green and then three-putted for bogey. The green slopes from left to right and with a front right hole location, golf balls putted from above the hole would race past the cup and off the green. The safe miss was not into the center of the green but short of the putting surface. Golfers who chipped from in front of the green were able to save par. Those who putted from above the hole walked away with three-putt bogeys.
Learning experience: It was a great week of golf for James Hahn but he called his final round “bittersweet.” Hahn lamented a missed eagle putt on the second hole followed by another miss for birdie at the third. Those early misfires hurt his confidence for the remainder of the round and he had trouble both trusting and hitting his line. Hahn says the great lesson he learned from playing in the final group: He has to become a better putter under pressure.
Last look: Scott Tway would not leave the 18th green until Snedeker had hit the green. Tway caddied for Chris Kirk and his man had just birdied the final hole to post 17 under. Snedeker had a two-shot lead and played into the 18th from just 139 yards. Tway stood his post, just making sure any chance of a playoff had been eliminated. Once Snedeker hit a 9-iron to within 30 feet of the cup, Tway conceded his man would finish second and joined Kirk in the scoring trailor.
Conditions: Pebble Beach was in the best condition I have ever seen in February. During the rainy winter months, the golf course is usually soggy. Not this year. The greens retained some firmness, even with rain on Thursday night and Friday morning. There have been years when the ball hits the green with a “squish.” This year, the same shot would hit the green and release. The fairways also had a degree of firmness and the combination was noted with approval by the entire field of players.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.