When Brandt Snedeker was growing up in suburban Nashville, his older brother Haymes tormented him. Haymes would pick on Brandt, pummel him in backyard football games, even lock him in a bedroom closest. Their lopsided rivalry extended to the golf course, where the Brothers Snedeker whiled away steamy summer days honing skills that would eventually land them starring roles on the golf teams at Ole Miss (Haymes) and, a few years later, Vanderbilt (Brandt). Only Brandt, though, possessed the drive to thrive at the next level, for which he still partly credits the affectionate beat-downs and put-downs administered by his big bro. “It toughened me up,” says Brandt, now 32 and a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, “and taught me how to compete.” This explains why at any given Tour stop, lovable, mop-topped “Sneds” morphs into a smack-talking killer, with a putting stroke that shows no mercy. [RELATED: Snedeker shares his putting secrets] On a drizzly morning at the Golf Club of Tennessee, Snedeker sat down with Golf Magazine to explain why he’s not afraid to get in Tiger’s ear, why he believes his major moment is coming, and why, even after his $10 million FedEx Cup windfall, he still sweats his finances.
Plenty of aspiring golfers are pushed by their fathers. You were pushed by your brother. Did Haymes really trap you in a closet?
Only when my parents were out. It was very traumatic. He would lock me in the bedroom closet and say, “Bogeyman, come get me!” He left me in there for about 30 minutes. I think that’s why I’m still scared of the dark. [Laughs] He was a great big brother, but he would literally beat the snot out of me all the time. My main goal in high school was to beat him at golf, because he was such a good player. But I didn’t do it until I got out of high school.
Haymes was a big talent at Ole Miss. Finally beating him must have confirmed to you that you had some serious game.
It did. He was a first-team All-SEC guy in college. He had just decided he wasn’t going to turn pro, that he was going to go to law school. We played in a tournament here in town called the New City Invitational. He had won it three years in a row and I played him. I had just committed to Vanderbilt and was getting ready to go in the fall. I went out there and shot 66 on Sunday and he shot 72. It was fun. Payback. A changing of the guard.
You’re one of the Tour’s speediest players. How’d you learn to play so quickly?
My dad [Larry, an attorney] was a stickler. When we played with him, it was, “Play fast first, play good second.” If you play golf in over four hours, that’s unacceptable. If there was nobody in front of us, nobody was ever going to wait on us.
Your mom owned a pawnshop, where you spent time working the counter. Some interesting characters must have passed through the store.
For sure. You saw some of the best people on the planet, with unbelievable work ethics, and then you’d see some of the worst people on the planet. There was this one family that my mom treated like her own family. They couldn’t afford their health care and monthly bills, so they pawned a drum set, still in the box. My mom had given them about $1,100 for the set before she finally decided to sell it. So I go downstairs, open up the drum set and the box is full of rocks. Stuff like that happened all the time. You learned lessons like that.
Did you buy or sell any cool golf gear?
Sure, we were always moving cool stuff. Golf clubs, stereos—this was back when stereos were still cool—all the newest movies, DVDs, guns, bows and arrows, impounded cars. Me and my brother got our first cars through the pawnshop.
What was your first car?
A Toyota Camry that had spent about a month at the bottom of a lake.
You’re regularly cited as one of the nicest guys on Tour. Do you have a darker side that we don’t see?
Not really. I try to treat people the right way. But I am extremely sarcastic. I like cracking the whip on people. I’m also extremely competitive. As nice as you might think I am, when I’m out there playing those guys on the course, I’m trying to whip the crap out of them. I don’t want to lose to anybody, and for me to do that, I really don’t like them when I’m playing. I’ll say, “Great shot,” and make sure they have a good time. But I could care less if they go out and shoot 60 or 80. I’m going to try to find a way to beat them.
You’ve been known to talk trash, too.
I’m not real big on people getting too big for their shoes. People do that with me all the time. When I think I’ve become this big deal, my brother, my friends or my wife will bring me right back to where I belong. So I try to do the same thing with Phil and Tiger and all those guys. I try to make sure that we all stay in the same bubble.
You’re not afraid to needle Tiger? That usually doesn’t end well for his antagonizers.
Not at all. Tiger loves giving it to you, so the only way you’re going to be able to hang with him is if you give it right back. You don’t want to get pushed over. One of the funnest rounds I’ve had was this year at Phoenix, when Phil won. I was four back going into the last round and made a run. Every time I hit a good shot, I would let [Phil] know. I’d say, “You’re getting old. Can you handle this?” Just messing with him. And he was giving it back. Every time he made a birdie, he’d stare over at me and smile: “I can’t see where that went. Where did it go?”
You’ve said that not getting selected for the 2003 Walker Cup team was a bitter pill to swallow. Where does that rank among your biggest disappointments?
It’s up there. It was the first time I really felt overlooked. I thought I had done some special stuff my senior year in college: winning three times, being SEC Player of the Year, being first-team All-American. And I had a great amateur career that summer, won the U.S. Public Links. Not to get picked, it was tough.
Did you get an explanation?
Fred Ridley [then the USGA president] wrote me a letter, letting me know what their thinking was.
What was it?
It’s a tough process. Someone gets left out every year. It was just upsetting. I’m still a little bitter. It’s something that I missed out on and I still hold a little bitterness toward the USGA. I still let them know about it every once in a while. I’d love to win a U.S. Open and let them know again.