GREENSBORO, N.C. – This time last year, Brandt Snedeker was back home in Nashville, nursing a nagging rib injury and wondering what his future held.
He hadn’t played on the PGA TOUR since June, missing the final two majors of the season. And he couldn’t tee it up in the Wyndham Championship, the tournament which his long-time sponsor hosts and where he’d picked up his breakthrough victory, either.
On the eve of that tournament at Sedgefield Country Club, Snedeker tweeted that he was going to shut it down until he was 100 percent healthy. “My sternum joint has become unstable and does not allow me to hit a golf ball without pain,” he explained.
Small wonder, then, that Sunday’s win at the Wyndham Championship was so special. Snedeker knew he was completely back, and he proved it with a wire-to-wire victory that included a phenomenal 59 in the first round.
“To be injured, to be away from the game for five and a half months, to not know what the recovery was going to look like, to not know if you're going to be 100 percent again and still dealing with it to this day,” Snedeker said. “Still not 100 percent, but I'm way better than I was.
“I guess it's the facts of life as you get older out here, you're going to have to deal with certain nagging injuries all the time.”
Snedeker had to play 29 holes on Sunday. He came back in the morning – with former Wyndham CEO Steve Holmes picking him up at the hotel at 6:15 a.m. -- and finished off a 68 in the third round, then shot 65 over the final 18 holes on a steamy afternoon for the three-stroke win.
The victory didn’t come easily, though. C.T. Pan gave chase with a 66, taking the lead on the back nine, while Webb Simpson closed with a 62. At one point, all three were tied for the lead.
But Snedeker came up with a clutch chip from a “horrible” lie at the 15th hole to within 3 feet for birdie. Then he rolled in a 19-footer for birdie on the 18th hole, which Simpson bogeyed and Pan doubled, to seal the win.
The comeback was complete.
“When you don't have your health out here and you're trying to fight through it, it's really tough because you know what you're capable of and your body's not letting you do what you think you should be able to do.,” Snedeker said. “Fortunately enough, I felt good enough to be able to practice and put the time in and it came through today.
“Today's when you find out, okay, am I going to hold up, is the stuff I'm working on working, is it TOUR-tested in a sense, and it was great to hit some quality shots down the stretch.”
All in all, Snedeker, a nine-time TOUR winner now, called the week the “most stressful” he’s ever had as a professional golfer.
The 59 in the first round, just the ninth ever shot on the PGA TOUR, sent his expectations “through the roof.” His wife and two young children decided to come in for the weekend and he didn’t want to disappoint. His father and brother were here, too. The Wyndham executives he’d grown so close to were rooting hard for him, as well.
But he got it done. And he was able get that trophy – the Sam Snead Cup – that his kids have been clamoring for now that they finally understand what their daddy does for a living.
“It means the world to me that I have not failed them finally,” Snedeker said. “It's a great teaching lesson for them. They've seen how hard I've worked. They've seen the amount of time I've spent away from them trying to get to this point, so it's good for them to see, hey, it works, pays off.
“If you keep your head on straight and do stuff the right way and keep working your tail off, you do get rewarded. So I think more than anything else, I'm more proud of that fact.”
Webb Simpson teed off 40 minutes ahead of Brandt Snedeker on Sunday afternoon, trailing by a formidable six strokes. But the reigning PLAYERS champion fired a 62 and was briefly tied for the lead at 19 under before faltering when he bogeyed the 18th hole after nearly hitting his drive out of bounds. As it turns out, the bogey was academic since Snedeker birdied two of his last four holes to win by three. And regardless, Simpson saw lots of positives in his performance on Sunday as he tried to win the Wyndham Championship for the second time. “I feel great about 62,” Simpson said. “I had a great time out there making a push. Wish I could have the swing on 18 back, but if you had told me I would play 18 holes and swing it great except for one tee shot, I would have taken it starting the day. So all in all, I feel great going into next week for the first Playoff event.” Simpson moved to No. 7 in the FedExCup with the tie for second, inching closer to the magic top 5 who can win the $10 million bonus with a victory at the TOUR Championship. “Pretty high,” Simpson said when asked about his confidence level heading into the Playoffs. “I've played just consistently, I feel like, pretty well for a while now. … It is a lot of golf, but excited to get the Playoffs started.”
C.T. Pan admitted that a “voice in my head” got him on the 18th hole Sunday when he hit his tee shot out of bounds. He was 20 under and tied for the lead at the time and ended up making a double bogey. Even so, the 26-year-old from Taiwan saw many positives in the week that saw him finish tied for second with Webb Simpson. “I love the feeling being in contention. That's what I'm working for, what I'm striving for,” Pan said. “You know, obviously the nerves got me on the last tee shot, which is very unfortunate, but I think I can learn something from it. This is only my second year on the TOUR, I'm still trying to learn from the best players out there.” The tie for second, which matches the best finish of Pan’s career, sends the second-year pro into the FedExCup Playoffs with momentum. He moves from No. 108 to 63rd entering THE NORTHERN TRUST next week. “(This) helps me a lot in the FedExCup points. It helps me and helps my game, my confidence. … This tournament proves I can still go out there and shoot some low scores,” Pan said.
QUOTABLESI forget how many I have, but it's fun to see them out here.My wife told me it's beginner's luck. She's caddying for her first time, I'm in contention, she's getting the whole experience of being caddie, so I'm really happy for her.
Lowest round: Webb Simpson shot a 62 that included seven birdies, one eagle and a bogey at the 18th hole.
Longest drive: Jonas Blixt hit a 386-yard drive on the fifth hole.
Longest putt: Ryan Armour made a putt of 40 feet, 11 inches on the 14th hole
Hardest hole: The 418-yard, par-4 first hole was the hardest with 10 birdies, 43 pars, 18 bogeys and one double bogey.
Easiest hole: The 529-yard, par-5 fifth hole was the easiest with nine eagles, 44 birdies and 19 pars.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Brandt Snedeker's birdie to win for Shot of the Day
CALL OF THE DAY