Snedeker cards 59 at Wyndham Championship
August 16, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Brandt Snedeker shoots opening-round 59 at Wyndham
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Thursday’s first round at the Wyndham Championship started poorly for Brandt Snedeker, as he snap-hooked a 3-wood off the 10th tee, leaving him on the wrong side of the cart path left of the fairway. It was 7:40 a.m. at Sedgefield Country Club, and already he was in scramble mode.
Not to worry. His next 58 shots were of significantly higher quality.
The final stroke was a birdie putt from 20 feet, 4 inches, just off the fringe and below the hole at the par-4 ninth, and it put Snedeker in the record book with the 10th round of 59-or-better on the PGA TOUR. Thanks to his opening bogey, Snedeker’s 59 is the first in which a player was over-par at any point of the round.
“Crazy day,” he said, still wrapping his head around the 11-under round — and an 8-under 27 coming in — that left him with a four-shot lead over Ryan Moore and John Oda.
On one hand, it’s not surprising that Snedeker joined the 59 Club. You might even make the argument that it was inevitable, given that when he heats up, he runs hotter than most. He’s shown that on several occasions, most notably the third round of the 2012 HSBC Champions in China, when he reached the 18th hole with a chance to shoot the first 59 on the European Tour. He couldn’t convert the birdie putt, leaving him with a 60 — still tied for the lowest score on that tour.
He also showed early in his TOUR career that he can go super-low. In just the eighth round of his first full season in 2007, he shot an opening 61 at Torrey Pines North that included seven birdies and an eagle for a 27 in his first nine holes. Of the TOUR’s 13 nine-hole scores of 27-or-better, Snedeker is the only player to do it twice (Corey Pavin is the only one to record a 26).
He knows how to produce lots of birdies. In three of the previous seven seasons, he’s finished inside the top 10 on TOUR in birdie average. Most of the damage he does with his flatstick.
“That putter,” said his caddie, Travis Perkins, not feeling the need to elaborate.
Brandt Snedeker dunks it from 176 yards for eagle at Wyndham
Plus, it’s no surprise that Snedeker went low at Wyndham. Of his three previous career-low rounds of 61 on TOUR, one of those was at Sedgefield in 2015. And his lowest final round on TOUR was also in the Wyndham, albeit at Forest Oaks in 2007. He shot a 63 that Sunday to win his first TOUR event.
On the other hand, Snedeker entered this week hardly in the best shape to shoot a 59. His last win was two years ago. His eight missed cuts this season are in his most since 2011, and he’d only finished top-3 just once in 22 starts, last month at The Greenbrier.
He tried to convince himself that his game was coming around, but he acknowledged on Wednesday that it has been a frustrating season, that his hard work on the range had yet to be rewarded. His play during the pro-am was nothing to get excited about.
“As much as I tried to positive self-talk myself into playing good, I didn’t see 59 coming today, to be honest with you,” Snedeker said. “But I kind of found something late yesterday on the golf course that kind of built on what I was working on earlier in the week.”
Even later that night, he was on the range at Sedgefield. He hit five balls, was thrilled that his swing seemed to be properly syncing up, and called it an evening. He left thinking he could take an aggressive approach into Thursday.
He didn’t let the wayward opening tee shot derail him. He rolled in a putt from 26 feet, 3 inches for birdie at the 13th and followed with a birdie from practically the same distance on the next hole. Two more birdies immediately followed, but the key stroke might have been his bunker shot at the 18th. He blasted to within 8 feet and made the putt for par.
“Probably not many guys are going to get up-and-down out of that bunker today,” Snedeker said. “It’s just a death place to be. Hit a great bunker shot and to make that putt to keep the momentum going.”
Said Perkins: “He made a couple of long putts, but he wasn’t hitting it that great. Then something clicked right as we made the turn.”
His approach at No. 1 finished inside 4 feet. Birdie. His approach at No. 2 finished inside 2-1/2 feet. Birdie. His tee shot at No. 3 finished inside 5-1/2 feet. Birdie. His third shot to the par-5 fifth finished inside 2-1/2 feet. Birdie.
“You can see why I shot 59,” Snedeker said, smiling. “I had a lot of tap-ins.”
Brandt Snedeker nearly aces No. 7 at Wyndham
Then came the par-4 sixth. He didn’t even need his putter.
From 176 yards on his approach shot, he cut a 7-iron and the ball sailed into the hole for eagle. He didn’t even see it go in; in fact, he didn’t realize it until he reached the green. Once there, he also realized his ball had “destroyed the cup a little bit.” Damage to the cup forced tournament officials to first, try to fix the issue (to no avail), then eventually moving the cup 18-20 inches.
Snedeker was now 9 under through 15 holes. The unusual delay as the hole was re-cut allowed him to take an emotional breather and contemplate his legitimate chase at history.
“I’ve got two birdie holes left I know of — that’s 8 and 9,” Snedeker recalled. “It’s not crazy to shoot 59. Like that’s why we’re here. Let’s keep going. Don’t be complacent now because you’re 9-under par. Take advantage of the opportunity.”
Which he did with a 5-iron to inside 3 feet at the par-3 seventh. Now he was 10 under and headed to the shortest and easiest par-4 on the course, the 352-yard eighth.
At that point, playing partner Billy Horschel figured 59 was now inevitable.
“Almost made a hole-in-one,” Horschel said. “Oh my gosh, he’s going to shoot 59. This is awesome.”
Actually, 59 was no longer the biggest target. Snedeker now had a shot at joining Jim Furyk, the only player on TOUR to shoot 58.
He turned to Perkins and said simply, “C’mon, two more.”
His approach at the eighth finished inside 3 feet. Another tap-in, right? Only this time, he missed the delicate birdie putt.
“We left it on the wrong side of the hole,” Perkins said. “It was downhill, right to left. That was a tough putt to make.”
The missed putt could have easily been the momentum killer, an emotional deflater. Snedeker refused to let it carry over to his final hole.
“Try to tell myself, listen, it’s not the end of the world,” Snedeker recalled. “You still have a birdie hole left. I kind of had in my mind if I make this putt, I’ve got one more birdie to shoot 58 and tie Jim Furyk for 58.
“So when I missed the putt, I got a little disappointed right away, but I said, you know what, if I hit the fairway on 9, I’m going to have a birdie opportunity. I’m going to figure out a way to get it done.”
So he found the fairway, then hit a 9-iron that left his ball clinging on the fringe. It was uphill, right to left, into the green. Snedeker could be aggressive with the putt. He told himself one thing.
You’re not going to leave this thing short. You don’t know when this is going to happen again.
His stroke was solid and pure. The ball was still 6 feet from the cup, but he knew it was going to fall. He knew 59 would be the number written on his scorecard.
He celebrated with handshakes and hugs from both playing partners, Horschel and Hideki Matsuyama. Horschel had never seen a 59 in person. His smile was almost as big as Snedeker’s.
“I was jacked up for him,” Horschel said. “I said, ‘Oh dude, that was awesome. Special playing.’ I was thrilled. I mean, I was speechless.”
Snedeker wasn’t speechless. More like satisfied. An opportunity had presented itself — and now he was in the record books.
“It’s very rare out here when you have something you’re trying to do and you step up with this pressure and all the stuff on you and you do it,” he said. “You hit the shots you’re supposed to hit and you make the putts you’re supposed to do.
“If you don’t get excited for that, then you need to find another job.”