GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Many of golf’s big names stayed away from the Wyndham Championship — either because of injury, fatigue or the belief that it wouldn’t greatly affect their place on the playoff points list.
Then Brandt Snedeker showed up and won it, and enjoyed the kind of boost to his point total that next year might make those no-shows reconsider.
The first victory of Snedeker’s PGA Tour career Sunday helped him climb 17 spots to No. 9 on the FedEx Cup points list and put the rookie in position to challenge during the four-week grind that begins this week at The Barclays.
“I think the guys who were 25th or 35th or 40th that didn’t play this week could have really jumped up and made it a whole lot easier” on themselves, Snedeker said, adding that he “doesn’t really know how it’s going to work out. Everybody is kind of leery this first year.”
The 26-year-old Tennessee native and former Vanderbilt player took advantage of a thin field and shot a 9-under 63 during his final round to claim a two-stroke victory and the 4,500 points that accompany it, bringing his total to 11,870.
Among those who backed out last week were defending champion Davis Love III (kidney stones), long driver Bubba Watson (medical reasons), 2005 winner K.J. Choi, Chris DiMarco and Boo Weekley.
But for Snedeker, the goal at Forest Oaks Country Club was simple: Accumulate enough points to vault into the Top 15, because the experts say those players have the best chance to win the championship – and the $10 million bonus that comes with it.
“Everything the tour has been telling us, you have a legitimate chance to win the FedEx Cup, (but) you’ve got to be inside the Top 15,” Snedeker said. “That’s why I came here – I wanted to get in the Top 15 and give myself a chance. … I know my game can leave me tomorrow and I can have the shanks. I wanted to go as high as I could.”
He did it in clutch fashion. Tied with two holes to play and seemingly headed for a playoff, Snedeker hit a 3-iron to within 32 feet on the par-3 17th, and that set up the birdie putt that moved him ahead of Tim Petrovic for good.
“I knew I was going to have to birdie one of the last two to give myself a chance,” Snedeker said. “The way the scores were going, everybody was getting birdies everywhere.”
Snedeker, who finished at 22-under 266, earned $900,000. Petrovic (67) – who was tied with Snedeker with two holes to play – joined Jeff Overton (70) and Billy Mayfair (67) two strokes back.
Carl Pettersson (68) – a North Carolina resident and a member of the tournament’s board – finished three strokes behind Snedeker, who joined Shigeki Maruyama (2003) and Choi as recent winners at 22 under at a Forest Oaks course dominated all week by high temperatures and low scores.
Snedeker and Petrovic were tied at 21 heading into the final two holes, and a playoff seemed a real possibility until Snedeker made his move on the par-3 17th. His tee shot – one that “under the pressure, probably was the best swing of my life,” he said – set up his clutch birdie putt.
Petrovic, playing two groups behind him, landed his tee shot on the green about 70 feet from the hole but missed his birdie attempt and tapped in from about 2 feet for par.
“I knew what I had to do. Everybody was out here making birdies today, so I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t shocked,” Petrovic said. “I was just kind of ready to go and do my own thing.”
Snedeker then closed his round with an uneventful par on No. 18, while Petrovic sent his drive into the woods on the left side of the fairway and wound up finishing with a bogey.
“A guy shoots 63, you’ve got to take your hat off to him – he won it, I didn’t lose it,” Petrovic said.
Though he was denied his second career victory and first since 2005 when he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he did stand to move up 42 spots to No. 82 in the FedEx Cup standings and ensuring himself of making the field for The Barclays this week and next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
“At least I’m guaranteed the first two,” Petrovic said. “I just kind of had an off year, and I saw signs of life, my game starting to get a little better.”
Snedeker was at 18 under before a late run of three consecutive birdies thrust him up the leaderboard. He capped the string with one on the par-5 15th.
His previous best finish on the tour came in January when he was third at 12-under in the Buick Invitational after shooting a career-best 61 in the first round.
Overton – the 24-year-old former Indiana player who led after the second and third rounds and entered with a three-stroke lead – played himself into the FedEx Cup. He came to Greensboro at No. 165 on the points list but picked up 1,867 points and jumped to 109th.