Just how stunning has Brandt Snedeker's play been? After two consecutive runner-up finishes (to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, no less), he dominated the weekend at Pebble Beach to win by two.
I know this much, though. It's a little too soon to start waiting for white smoke to rise from the chimney ordaining Snedeker as the best player in the game, but it's not completely out of the question.
For starters, Snedeker (how come he doesn't have a catchier nickname yet than Sneds?) could easily have three wins this year if he hadn't run up against Tiger and Phil playing superlative golf. Pile this on top of his Tour Championship win at East Lake and his $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and you've got a guy on a roll. He's 82-under-par in five tournaments this year and his FedEx Cup series finishes last fall were, in order, second, sixth, T37th, and first.
I'd be the first to say he's just another golfer on a hot streak if only he hadn't picked up right where he left off. He contended at the British Open last summer, tying for third, then raised his game after a disastrous week at Kiawah Island when he shot 77-78 and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
Three or four good weeks is a hot streak. Snedeker is working on three or four good months. This isn't a hot streak; this may be the level he plays at now. Certainly his Ryder Cup experience, and his errant drive on the last hole of alternate-shot on Friday that cost him and partner Jim Furyk a point, seems to have steeled his resolve. It obviously put a spotlight on the weakest part of his game, his driving, and he clearly worked on correcting that in the off-season.
Snedeker is the best putter in the game. With apologies to Steve Stricker, that mantle has been passed. You take the game's best putter, put him in play more often off the tee and give him more birdie chances, he's going to be dangerous. Obviously, the stats are stacked since Snedeker has had three great weeks, but he's fourth in par-3 scoring, first in par-4 scoring and fifth in par-5 scoring. The latter is impressive because Snedeker is a mere 156th in driving distance.
Other than ranking second in scrambling and sixth in greens hit in regulation, Snedeker's stats don't stand out. Except that he's a scoring machine. He's first in birdies, averaging 5.63 per round. That's a winning combination.
He's 31, he's already had baptisms of fire in the Masters and the Open, and he's already got more money than he'll ever spend. The pressure is off. He's playing for trophies.
One more thing. One of his five PGA Tour victories came at Harbour Town where he beat Luke Donald in a playoff. Donald plays a similar game to Snedeker – not long off the tee, great scrambler, best bunker player on tour and an excellent putter. During their clash in South Carolina, Donald was battling Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer for the No. 1 world ranking. Donald eventually grabbed it and held onto it for a year. During which time Snedeker had to be thinking, If that guy can be No. 1 then so can I.
The Short Game
I suppose it was funny when David Feherty rode a golf cart along the 16th fairway at Pebble Beach during the CBS golf telecast with Brazilian race driver Rubens Barrichello, who finished it off by with a 180-degree spin and scared the you-know-what out of Feherty, but it was unclear whether Rubens was still playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the time and had just stopped off for a celeb in-round interview.
If he was still playing his round, Barrichello should've been disqualified for accepting a ride in a cart. Competitors can't ride in a cart during play. If he'd already finished his round, then never mind … Though it violates most of my sensibilities to mention this, Snedeker already has 1,282 FedEx Cup points. Right now, he'd finish 18th on last year's final FedEx Cup points list (before the points were reset for the playoffs), just ahead of Rickie Fowler and, well, Snedeker.
I'm not sure why this is another reason the FedEx Cup points list is stupid but I'm pretty sure it is … In other FedEx Cup scoring updates, Lee Westwood has 24 points. John Daly has 1. Thought you'd want to know … Here are the finishes for J.B. Holmes in the last five Northern Trust Opens: 8th, 12th, 3rd, 6th and 7th. Please, no wagering.
The Van Cynical Mailbag
(Send your cynical questions every Monday to Van Cynical's twitter account, @garyvansickle)
If Tiger had used deer antler spray, would he have 76 wins by now? – Tippet523, via Twitter
My lawyer, Bombastic Bushkin, advises me against commenting on any drugs Tiger Woods may or may not have used during his career. The advantages of deer antler spray may not outweigh the drawbacks. Have you ever tried to pick up your ball marker using a hoof? It's a bitch.
Do the players have as much fun at the Phoenix Open as it looks on TV? – DougieS, via email
A lot of players love the 16th hole roars and the associated antics that happen there. However, several players and caddies commented off-the-record that they were very upset by the galleries' behavior (or complete lack thereof) on the rest of the course during Sunday's final round. Golfers are born whiners but the crowd following the final threesome Sunday crossed the line – talking, shouting, camera clicking during the backswing is not OK.
Would you rather play Pebble Beach, Augusta National or Pine Valley? – Deckiedoo, via email