Bubba + Brandt = Team bounce-back
Watson, Snedeker hope QBE Shootout is a springboard back to TOUR elite
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
NAPLES, Fla. – The last time Brandt Snedeker and Bubba Watson were on the same team it was at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Snedeker was a player, Watson an assistant-captain.
They had the same goal, a U.S. victory, but different job responsibilities. Snedeker was tasked with making birdies, while Watson, to hear him tell it, was tasked with making lunch.
“Fixing him sandwiches, getting water for him, you know,” Watson joked Wednesday from the
QBE Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club, where he and Snedeker will pair up and go for the title against the 11 other two-man teams at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
Players form teams for all sorts of reasons. The seeds for Snedeker/Watson were sewn at Hazeltine, where they became good friends. Snedeker wanted to pair up with Watson at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but Watson already had a partner. They finally got together for this week’s QBE, a low-stress get-together where Snedeker won with Jason Dufner in 2015 and where Watson once dressed up as Santa Claus along with partner Rickie Fowler.
On the surface, they don’t seem much alike, Snedeker a great putter, Watson a long driver. But they’re not that dissimilar. Both are pushing 40, both have played on Presidents and Ryder Cup teams, and both are on the cusp of 10 wins on TOUR, Watson holding a narrow 9-8 lead.
But the similarity that stands out most is that Snedeker, 37, and Watson, 39, hope to use this week as a springboard into 2018 after enduring mid-career lulls. Watson failed to win last season for only the second time since 2010, while Snedeker fought through a sternum injury that baffled even the medical experts and sidelined him for five months.
To say that both are hungry would be an understatement. Watson finished 75th in the FedExCup after missing the cut at the Masters, THE PLAYERS Championship, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship last season. He had planned to take four months off after a T69 at the Dell Technologies Championship. His wife, Angie, was getting knee surgery. Their son, Caleb, was starting kindergarten. Alas, the plan didn’t take.
Watson says he simply missed the game too much. He returned to play in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T51) in Las Vegas, and The RSM Classic at Sea Island (67th). It was a humble beginning, but Watson is well aware that the last time he went winless, in 2013, he bounced back with authority, winning twice the next year, including his second Masters.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said Wednesday from Naples, “and I know I’ve done it before, and I know how good I can be when I’m focused on the right things.”
Snedeker’s 2017 was even more confounding. He couldn’t figure out why it hurt to swing, and neither could doctors. He finally got a diagnosis and ended his season after finishing T14 at the Travelers Championship. Although he qualified for the Playoffs, the 2012 FedExCup champion sat on the sidelines, just as he had for The Open Championship, the PGA Championship, and other elite events. He would end the season 73rd in the FedExCup, two ahead of Watson.
All of which begins to explain why Snedeker is so excited about finally playing again. He came back to competition at The RSM Classic, opening with rounds of 67-67 before a pair of 70s left him in a tie for 29th place. “Felt really good,” Snedeker said. “Body felt amazing.”
He hopes a solid week at the QBE at Tiburon presages a big upcoming season, in the same way that he thrived in 2016 after winning here with Dufner in December, 2015.
Oh, and Snedeker is flying halfway around the world to play in next week’s Indonesia Masters. He says he needs the reps, and then there’s this: He is 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and the top 50 at the end of the season are guaranteed spots in the field at the 2018 Masters.
“I think it’s a 15-hour flight from JFK to Hong Kong, and I’m not even close to being there once I get to Hong Kong,” Snedeker said. “So it’s going to be a long trip.”
Still, he’s looking forward to it, partly because he has never been to Indonesia. Like his QBE teammate, Watson, Snedeker knows he’s got work to do to get back to his old self, especially after a 14-week hiatus. And like too many others to count, Snedeker says he didn’t fully realize what he had until it was suddenly gone, even if it was only for a year.
“You realize how much you love what you do,” Snedeker said, sitting to Watson’s right and more or less speaking for them both. “How much—how lucky we are to do what we do, and how passionate we are about it.”