Snedeker heads to Ryder Cup after proving his mettle with FedEx Cup win
In the end, the Tour Championship was just another golf tournament, although it must be said that the winner's check came with an extra zero.
There was no seismic shift in the golf landscape. The FedEx Cup ended in perfectly respectable fashion, with Brandt Snedeker taking the $10 million bonus, not to mention another $1.44 million for winning the tournament.
More importantly, he proved he can close out a tournament. Snedeker's three-stroke victory may ultimately be more impressive in hindsight, as the moment when a pretty good player morphed into something more.
"I think it solidifies what I already know: when I play my best golf, my best golf is some of the best in the world," Snedeker said after his pressure-proof 68. "I made sure that I kept telling myself that all day. I am one of the best players in the world. This is supposed to happen."
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Snedeker, 31, now has four career victories, but this was the first time he finished off a 54-hole lead. Long one of golf's best putters, he was magnificent from tee-to-green on an East Lake course that has some of the Tour's skinniest fairways. But this triumph was more about grit than execution.
"He's been tough all week," said Ryan Moore, who finished tied for third. "He wanted it. You could just see it. I played with him Friday. I mean, you could just see it. He just had it in him."
Snedeker's resolve was tested when he drowned his tee shot on the wind-blown par-3 sixth hole. He steadied himself after that double bogey with a birdie on the eighth hole and superb up-and-down at 10. Snedeker was tied for the lead with Moore as he played the par-5 15th, and for the first time all day his mind began to wander.
"I caught myself kind of jumping forward," he said. "Thinking of what this would mean to win, and the FedEx Cup and all that stuff. I literally almost hit myself in the face and said, Boy, we've got a ton of golf left. We've got a bunch of hard holes left. Get back into what you're supposed to be doing."
He followed with a crucial birdie and then put the tournament on ice with a chip-on on the 17th hole.
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Snedeker's rousing finish was needed on a day when all the headliners struggled. Rory McIlroy, who came into the week No. 1 in the World Ranking and on the FedEx Cup points list, played the fourth through seventh holes in four over par and admitted he was reduced to trying to protect second place in the points race. (He succeeded, locking up the $3 million bonus.) Tiger Woods, second in points coming into the tournament, made three bogies and a double in his first 10 holes and was never a factor. And Jim Furyk, playing for redemption after a late triple bogey on Saturday knocked him from the lead, sputtered to a two-over-par 72 and now heads to the Ryder Cup looking suspect as a captain's pick.
Snedeker also got the nod from U.S. captain Davis Love; his hot play in the first two FedEx Cup events was a key factor. With his flammable putter and newfound killer instincts, this Ryder Cup rookie could be a key figure in what should be a closely contested match. Snedeker knows that he erased a lot of doubt on Sunday at East Lake.
"I'm sure 90 percent of you all probably didn't pick me to win today, because I've never done it before, and I don't blame you," the new FedEx Cup champ said. "But today was my day to go out and prove a bunch of people wrong -- that I can play with the lead, I can handle the pressure. I've done it my whole career in junior golf, and high school golf, college golf, even on the Nationwide Tour I've played with the lead and won. I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of doing it when the pressure was on, and I did it today."