You probably didn’t know who Brandt Snedeker was before Sunday. Maybe you still don’t. He’s the new champion of the Wyndham Championship (formerly known as the Greater Greensboro Open). He is also a lock to be Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour for 2007, thanks to his triumph in a birdie-fest at Forest Oaks Country Club.
Snedeker, 26, was born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., and attended college there at Vanderbilt, where he was an All American and was the school’s first player to qualify for NCAA regional competition. He won twice on the Nationwide Tour last year, and his highest world ranking before this year was 245th.
With his win in Greensboro, Snedeker made big jumps in both the world ranking (to 55th from 80th) and the FedEx Cup points standings (to 9th from 26th).
It should be obvious that Snedeker is a player. He had five top-10 finishes before his win, including fifth in Memphis and seventh at the Canadian Open. More impressive, perhaps, were his performances in the big events. He was 12th at the Players, 23rd at the U.S. Open and 18th at the PGA Championship. He’s not what you would call a long hitter, but he ranks fifth on the tour in scoring on par-5 holes, usually dominated by the big bashers. His most interesting statistic? He ranks second on the tour in three-putt avoidance.
Here’s a smorgasbord of things you ought to know about Snedeker:
Nobody starts a Buick faster than Snedeker. Here’s how he began the opening round of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in January: Birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, par, birdie. It added up to a 27 on his first nine, and he finished that Thursday with a 61, 11 under par.
“I’m sure people didn’t have a clue who I was going into that day,” Snedeker said later. “By the end of the day, I had people cheering my name and telling me to shoot 59.” He finished third and jump-started his successful season. Tiger Woods, naturally, won the tournament.
One good quote makes you a media hero. On that sensational opening round, Snedeker was nine under par after nine holes, tying the tour record for the lowest nine-hole score on a course that was par 36. His funny line: “The only time I’ve been nine under through nine holes was playing Tiger Woods on PlayStation.”
Correction: Somebody knew who Snedeker was. Saturday morning before the Buick Invitational’s third round, Snedeker bumped into Tiger Woods on the practice green. Woods said hello, called him by name and told him, “Good playing this week.” Snedeker’s reaction later? “That was pretty phenomenal.”
He needs a stuntman. Snedeker suffered a cracked rib in 2005, sidelining him for seven weeks from the Nationwide Tour, where he came back from the injury but finished 45th on the money list. Last year, he suffered a broken clavicle at a tournament when he tripped over a tree root, fell and landed on his right shoulder while running to his car to get a pair of shoes. He attributed the injury to being a klutz.
While he was out with the shoulder injury, he realized how much he missed golf and how much he didn’t like watching fellow pros on television as they raked in big checks. That motivated him, and when he returned to the Nationwide Tour, he won the Permian Basin Classic and secured his PGA Tour card by finishing ninth on the Nationwide money list.
His amateur hour. Snedeker’s eligibility expired at Vanderbilt University in 2003, and he was looking forward to turning pro. Then he won the National Public Links Championship that summer, which earned him a berth in the 2004 Masters as long as he didn’t turn professional before then. SMU’s Colt Knost faces a similar dilemma right now. Snedeker stayed an amateur and played in the Masters with his brother as his caddie.
Owning Amen Corner. By the way, in his first Masters round, he took down Amen Corner. That’s right, he birdied the 11th, 12th and 13th holes in his first tournament round. Snedeker made the cut, finished 41st and earned low amateur honors.
Matchless. Snedeker is clearly a streaky golfer capable of taking a round low. In the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in ’03, he made 11 birdies in 27 holes and crushed his unfortunate opponent, Dayton Rose, by a 10-and-9 margin.
Snedeker in summation. He has been a star at every level of golf. The safe prediction here is that he’s going to be a multiple winner on tour and have a very, very lucrative career. He could be your sleeper pick to win the FedEx Cup title … in the unlikely event that Tiger doesn’t.