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Brandt Snedeker's profile is rising headed into WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Brandt Snedeker
Thomas Lovelock / Sports Illustrated
Brandt Snedeker is one of four players who have won twice on the PGA Tour in 2013.

AKRON, Ohio -- The best player who's never won a major championship? Nah, Brandt Snedeker is pretty sure it's not him.

"I've only won six times," Snedeker said Wednesday morning before he prepped for this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. "Tiger has done that in one year a couple of times. Everybody tries to lavish praise on guys so quickly out here. There's a bunch of guys who have had way better careers than I have that are lacking that one thing. I'm still relatively new at this. I'm 32. I've got a long way to go."

When you're included in the best major-less player discussion it's a sure sign that you've finally made it. Snedeker is underrating himself here. He belongs in the discussion.

He belongs because he has put himself in contention at a couple of majors -- twice at the Masters and once at the British Open. He is one of only four players with two victories on the PGA Tour this year, and this exclusive club includes the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar.

The best major-less player tag is a compliment, a sign that observers think you're worthy of winning one. If you look at the top players in the world who haven't won a major and examine who's playing the best at the moment, well, sorry, Brandt, but you're right there.

Based strictly on rankings, Snedeker would be the No. 2 best major-less player. He's ranked seventh in the world. Matt Kuchar, at No. 6, is the only player ahead of him who also hasn't won a major. Two former No. 1s, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, also rate consideration, as does Sergio Garcia in the lifetime achievement category.

Is Snedeker the absolute best of them? Let's not hang that unwanted title on him just yet, but now would be a good time to start taking him seriously. He's working his way through the standard winner's to-do list. He started on the old Nationwide tour, winning the Scholarship America Showdown and, one of my favorite tournament names, the Permian Basin Classic. He geared up on the PGA Tour with a victory at the 2007 Wyndham Classic, a pre-FedEx Cup event that doesn't draw a strong field. Then he won at Harbour Town, always a decent field the week after the Masters, and at Torrey Pines. Then he won the Tour Championship, a prestigious event although it's only a 30-man field, which yielded the added $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup playoffs. This year Snedeker added a win at Pebble Beach, fell back with an injury (ribs) and returned with a win at the Canadian Open last weekend.

"This is the next step in a progression," he answered when asked what a victory at the Bridgestone, a limited-field WGC event, would mean to his career. "You win tournaments, then you start winning bigger tournaments. You're playing against 70 guys that are probably the top 50 in the world and 20 that are playing great golf. Winning this is kind of the next step for men, then winning a major would be the next step after that."

The reason Snedeker rates as a person of interest the rest of this year is his game and his preparation. He's already considered the best putter on Tour, following in the footsteps of the almost-retired Steve Stricker. He is a better ball-striker and iron-player than you probably realize. He piled on one good approach shot after another at Glen Abbey last weekend, and the Tour stats show he ranks 53rd in driving accuracy and 23rd in greens hit in regulation. More importantly he's second in birdies per round, 4.24, and seventh in scoring average. Translation: He's a threat to win any tournament, anywhere.

Snedeker's preparation is important because unlike some Tour players who are starting to wear down as August arrives, with the PGA Championship and the four-week grind of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Snedeker is gearing up. He tailored his playing schedule carefully in June and July so he'd be ready for this run.

"I'm playing good right now so I'm more than happy to keep playing," he said. "If the PGA Tour has a tournament, I'm pretty much going to play the rest of the year."

He paced himself this week by taking Monday and Tuesday off. He didn't touch a club. Instead, he spent two days with his family -- his wife and their 5-year-old daughter and nine-month-old son. They hit the Akron Zoo, among other places. Daughter, Lily, liked the penguins and the otters but was disappointed there were no giraffes.

"We can go to the Cleveland Zoo and get that covered next time, I guess," Snedeker said with a laugh. After taking four out of five weeks off after The Players in May, and then another break between the U.S. and British Opens, he seems anything but worn down as we enter the stretch run of yet another long season on Tour.

"So I'm well-rested," he said. "I made sure I was working on the right stuff, that we had a clear game plan of what we were going to do these last eight or nine events. Obviously, I'm feeling pretty good right now. The big thing is to maintain that momentum this week. It's a big stretch of golf coming up, and this is a great time of year to play your best golf."

Is he the best player who's never won a major? Perhaps. Is he the best player who's never won a World Golf Championship? Check back on Monday.
 

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