Brandt Snedeker comes into the British Open as the No. 8 player in the world and he’s ranked 3rd in FedExCup points. His career has blossomed ever since he graduated to the PGA Tour from the Web.com Tour in 2007. That first year on Tour he played in 29 events and racked up $2.8 million, quite exceptional for a rookie.
For the next four years he bumped along at around $1.5 millon a year until he blew the roof off in 2011 with $3.6 million. In 2012, he had a monster year with $5.0 million plus another $10.0 million for the winning the FedExCup. Monster year. This year, he’s played in just 14 events so far and only had two five-figure checks. All the rest have been six-figure, some substantial, and one seven-figure for winning at Pebble. The grand total for half a year’s work? $3.7 million.
I offer this up as financial evidence that this guy knows how to play the game. I do that because I get the sense that he’s sometimes overlooked when a big tournament rolls around. It must be his Huck Finn appearance that disarms people. “I love flying under the radar,” he joked when the media center didn’t have a turnout on Tuesday that reflected his success.
Although his grand finale was on the topic of patience, he began with effusive praise for Muirfield, site of this week’s British Open:
Well, it’s very straightforward. It’s right in front of you. You know when you hit a good shot, you get rewarded. If you hit a bad shot, you’re going to pay a penalty. Not saying that’s not true with most British golf, but this one seems more so like that. There’s not bunkers in the middle of the fairways. There’s very defined areas where you need to hit it. How you get the ball in that defined area is up to you.
It’s a great mix of holes. I chart what I hit in practice round, and I’ve hit every club in the bag every day. You’re hitting driver on some holes. You’re hitting 5-irons off the tee on some holes. It’s just a really cool mix of holes. And depending on the wind, they can all play completely differently. So it’s got a great mix of holes. No hole is a gimme. Even holes like No. 2 that seem like they could be pretty easy, the wind blows up, you hit one bad shot, and you’re struggling to make par. I think it’s a great test. There’s no let-up out there whatsoever.
He described the typical mistakes Americans make when they first play a links course. They know that they have to bump and run it into the greens, they just have no feel for just how much!
Yeah, the first day I think I probably hit it over 80 percent of the greens, trying to land them somewhere near the front of the green, they were one-hopping over the green, and going hard in the rush. It takes you a while to get adjusted how far the ball is running out.
I’m realizing that you can’t work the ball with the wind here. That’s the big thing. In America playing golf, working the ball with the wind is normal. You just kind of work it with it. Over here it’s so strong you can’t do it. You lose control over it. So I’m getting used to working up against wind and trying to keep the ball in the fairway and keeping the ball low. It’s very different.
And even as successful as he has been, he’s still a student of the game and learned a great deal in the last four Majors:
I learned a lot from — I learned a lot in the last four Majors. Playing with Tiger last year on Sunday. I learned a lot watching him play around Lytham. Learned a lot from watching Adam win at the Masters. I learned a lot watching Justin the first two days at the U.S. Open.
Just about the patience that’s required and the process you have to go through, and how unimportant each individual shot is, but when you add them up they are all extremely important. And finding that delicate balance of how to treat each shot.
The hardest thing to do in a Major championship is be patient for 72 holes and never push the panic button. The guy that wins this week will not do that. Never hit the panic button. But there’s going to be a lot of guys that do, and it’s hard to keep yourself from doing it.
And it’s made harder still by the nature of links golf where getting and dealing with bad bounces is all part of the territory:
Yeah, the hard part is the patience aspect. Knowing that sometimes you’re going to hit a quality shot and not get rewarded, and knowing that there’s — you’ve got to play a completely different style of golf.
You’re going to hit shots that go 50 yards off line. I’m sorry, it’s just the way it is. You get the ball working with the wind when you’ve tried to hold it up and it will end up in a horrible shot. Whereas in the States it might be in a bunker or ten yards to the green. Here it’s going to be 50 or 60 and there’s nothing to stop it. So it’s just different. You’re going to hit what look like horrible golf shots that really aren’t that bad.
Being patient enough to realize everybody is going to do it, and it’s going to be okay. It’s not the end of the world. That’s really tough to do because you feel like every shot is so important in the Majors.
Snedeker is known for his very brisk pace; he gets to the ball, sees the shot, hits the shot and moves on. He explains that a brisk pace is not inconsistent with being patient:
I play a quick pace, but there’s a difference between playing a quick pace and being patient. Patience for me is not slowing my whole routine now. That’s not what will make me play better.
I’m not talking about preaching patience, I’m talking about shooting away from pins, taking less club off tees, being more conservative when you want to be aggressive because you made a bogey, not trying to go after pins that you shouldn’t go after, trying to make an incredible up-and-down when you might not be able to get it out of the bunker. That’s being patient.
It has nothing to do with how fast you hit the ball or whatever. It has to do with not letting your previous shot affect you and not letting your position in the field affect what you need to do.
So with these thoughtful comments from Snedeker, not only do we have a frame of reference as we watch him and the other players this week, we also have another data point to pay attention to as we work on our own games.