Snedeker emerges from shell, records biggest wins of career

September 23, 2012
Larry Dorman, PGATOUR.COM

ATLANTA -- Brandt Snedeker is, by his own admission, a regular guy from a modest background. His golf game is old school, his values are bedrock and his demeanor is as down to earth as you'll find in anyone you run into at the grocery store or a PTA meeting, much less someone who competes for millions on the PGA TOUR.

MORE FROM EAST LAKE: Larry Dorman wrote nightly columns from the course this week. Click to read more. Archive

All of which makes it fitting, in so many ways, that Snedeker, 31, won the FedExCup on Sunday. He prevailed over a tough East Lake Golf Club, the hottest field of the year assembled for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, and -- perhaps most important -- over himself and any lingering doubts he may have harbored about his own ability to close the deal at a big event with everything on the line.

Tied for the lead with Justin Rose when the day began, and one of three players -- along with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods who was in position to win both the TOUR Championship and FedExCup with a victory -- Snedeker put the money and the fame and the trophies out of his mind and won it all, shooting an inspired round of 68 for a 10-under total of 270 that was three strokes clear of Rose and four better than Luke Donald.

McIlroy and Woods faded into the background, with McIlroy shooting a 74 to tie for 10th in the tournament and second in the FedExCup. Woods shot 72, tying for eighth in the tournament and third in the FedExCup.

And in the end, there stood Snedeker, who made almost every key putt he had to make, who hit almost every shot he had to hit, who moved up from the fifth spot in the points to the pinnacle. He held aloft the silver Tiffany trophy for the FedExCup and the crystal TOUR Championship trophy above his head, trying to summarize what he had done.

"It's just unbelievable," he said. "You know, it's -- you don't think about what's going to happen after today, after the round ... This is what you work your whole life for. I look at all the putts I've hit and all the shots I've hit through my life, it's just unbelievable the ability to stay calm today. It just came through."

It came through in everything he did on the golf course. And it began Sunday morning with Snedeker's visit to a hospital to visit Tucker Anderson. The son of Snedeker's golf teacher, Todd Anderson, Tucker was in a responsive coma at the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital specializing in the treatment. The 18-year-old Tucker was injured in a car crash outside Pensacola two weeks ago.

Playoffs update
ROUND 4: Brandt Snedeker won the FedExCup with his TOUR Championship victory. Final standings | Bonus money

"I was going in there thinking for the worst," Snedeker said. "And he was awake and alert. I just asked him if he thought I was going to beat Rory McIlroy today, and he just gave me a little wink."

Tucker, a member of the University of West Florida golf team, also managed to give Snedeker a fist-bump.

"That's all I needed," Snedeker said.

Playing with an uncharacteristic calm right from the start, Snedeker made some early noise that indicated it just might be his day. The first sign came when he holed a birdie at No. 3 as McIlroy was playing No. 4. Just after McIlroy's second shot from heavy rough at the par-four hole clipped a tree and fell 70 yards short of the green, a huge roar wafted on the wind from the third green.

Three visitors from Northern Ireland were part of the huge gallery following McIlroy, among them David Fitzgerald, the brother of Rory's caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald. Hearing the commotion, one of David's pals read the roar correctly.

"Blast," he said under his breath. "Sneds made one."

It was one of many that he had he made all week, and that he would make during a hectic round in which he fought off challenges from Rose, who shot 71, and Ryan Moore -- who tied him at 9 under with a birdie at the 15th before bogeying the final three holes for a 70 and a tie for third with Luke Donald.

The biggest of the week was not one of the 61 putts he made from inside 10 feet -- out of 62 attempts. Snedeker picked the one at the eighth hole, a 27-footer for birdie that went in with some pace, to get him to 8 under. He thought that he was out of it because he had watered his tee shot earlier and double-bogeyed the par-3 sixth. He didn't know that almost all his competitors had done the same.

Said McIlroy of his double at the 202-yard peninsula par-3, "The double there was very deflating, and I had to bogey the next as well." But McIlroy, who won two Playoffs events and came into the TOUR Championship No. 1 in the FedExCup standings as well as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, was not unduly disappointed.

Round 4 Recap: TOUR Championship

In the final round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, Brandt Snedeker shoots a 2-under 68 to win the tournament and the FedExCup.

"I'm a little disappointed," said McIlroy, who was getting ovations at every green during the afternoon. "But at the same time, Brandt really deserves to win. He played -- if you look at his stats the whole way throughout the week -- he played the best golf out of anyone. He knew what he needed to do.

"He needed to come in here and win. He controlled his own destiny just like I did, and he was able to come and do that. So because of that, he really deserves it."

Snedeker won a big golf tournament and lot of money and a lot of acclaim on Sunday at East Lake. He won it because he has learned how to be patient and how to control his emotions. He won it because he is a great putter, and, as the great local legend Bobby Jones once said, "A great putter is a match for any man."

So is a man who knows not just the cost of things, but their value. Before the biggest golf payoff in his career, a $10 million bonus for the FedExCup and $1.44 million for the TOUR Championship, Snedeker went to visit his coach's kid in the hospital.

"It just made me realize how unimportant, as much as I make today out to be important, how unimportant it really is," Snedeker said. "It got me focused on the small stuff, which I did a great job of doing today."

And that's why he deserved it.