Brandt Snedeker came into the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, with a lot of confidence. And why not? He was No.5 in FedExCup points which put him in the heady air of almost a sure thing: if any of the top 5 players in points win the Tour Championship, they automatically win the the FedExCup and the $10 million that goes with it. It doesn’t matter if one of the other guys ends up with more points; win one you win them both.
So, a really big day on Sunday. Really big. Snedeker is tied for the lead with Justin Rose at 8-under par. All he has to do is win from the front…uh, something he has yet to do in his three PGA Tour victories. He’s only come from behind to catch Saturday night’s leader. And now, he’s that guy.
So what are his chances? No. 1 in points, Rory McIlroy is three strokes back and No.2, Tiger Woods is four back. Neither No. 3, Nick Watney nor No. 4 Phil Mickelson are having a good tournament. So just the two best players in the world stand between Snedeker and his pot of gold. That’s all. Well, them…and himself.
So in his media room session, the media did a good job of flushing out his plan…and as important to us, the details.
Do you have any thoughts for tomorrow? You’re right there.
Yeah, exactly. My first goal for this week is achieved, and that is to have a chance going into Sunday. I think something like 90‑something percent of the PGA Tour winners come from the last two groups, and that’s where I want to be in those last two groups. So I now get a chance to do that tomorrow, and it should be a lot of fun.
Brandt, are you at the point in your career where you don’t think about the money, and if so, was there a time when you did, and was it important to get past that?
I think as rookies out here, you always look at that money list when you’re not securing your card, wondering what’s going on. Now that I’ve been out here for a while, I realize you don’t play for money, otherwise you’ll be 80 to 125 every year on the money list. You play to win championships and the money comes with that, which is great. You know, I’m going out there to win a golf tournament tomorrow, and whatever comes of that, is great.
You’ve won this year from behind. Would it mean more to win from ahead?
Yes, it’s something I’ve not done in my career. I’ve never had a lead going into Sunday and won. So that’s kind of the next evolution, the next step in becoming a world class player. It’s knowing that you can do that, and I need to show that I can do that.
The trick for him here is to make sure that this is the only time he thinks about that. And so in this next question, it was good that he moved away from his overall goal to specific tactics he’ll have to employ while he’s playing; something he can do something about rather than the goal that’s the result of the execution details.
Is this your best round of the year so far?
I think so. It’s definitely one of my best, for sure, just because it was so tough today. The wind was so hard to hit the fairways here because the wind seemed like it would move the ball four or five yards one way or the other, and these fairways might be 15 yards wide, so you don’t have a lot of room to play with.
Just every iron shot has to be hit so crisply to control your distances and I did a great job of that today.
And this too; specific actions:
You’ll have the advantage now of playing in the last group and seeing how things unfold in front of you here tomorrow. How much calculating are you going to be doing?
None. I actually won’t look at the leaderboard all day. My goal tomorrow is to shoot as low as I possibly can. If that’s 63, it’s 63. If it’s 72, it’s 72. Whatever it is, it’s going to be everything I’ve got on that golf course tomorrow.
And then we get into this whole conversation about patience and how it ties into his tactics and goals:
Granted you don’t play for money, you play for titles. But with this title would come a lot of money. Does that increase the pressure at all?
No, I don’t think so. I think the biggest thing tomorrow is going to be how patient you can stay because this golf course eats guys up that don’t stay patient. With all that extra stuff that goes with the FedExCup Championship and the TOUR Championship, there are so many reasons to get antsy.
So you have to do an unbelievable job of staying patient. I’ve been around Tiger a bunch, and Phil a bunch, and Luke, and those guys have played great golf under serious pressure, and you see them. Their patience is amazing. That’s why they’re the best at what they do. That’s my goal tomorrow is to stay as patient as I possibly can.
He called staying patient a goal, but it’s really more an actionable tactic that he can do something about. And it doesn’t have the range of outcomes that a golf shot does. You are either patient or you’re not.
What’s been the biggest obstacle keeping you from winning from ahead? Has it been mental or physical?
Mental, for sure. I’m a jumpy guy to say the least. I think you all have noticed that. So my biggest thing is trying to stay patient under the gun, and realizing that not every shot is a make or break shot on Sunday. If there’s time to get back, there is always more time, always another shot. So just stay super patient and see what happens.
And then here’s the money quote on patience that goes to a deeper level of understanding:
You sort of answered my question. You tossed that word patience around a couple of minutes ago. I wanted to know what it meant to you, and I think you covered that.
Yeah, it’s just not putting more pressure on the shot than there already is. There is no make or break shot tomorrow. Every shot tomorrow is the exact same as it was today, and the exact same as it was on Thursday, to really embrace that [concept].
I did a great job today of staying patient. I missed four putts on the first four holes from inside 15 feet for birdie. You don’t have those kind of opportunities around here very often. I did a great job of staying patient, and when you do that, you tend to have some success.
Success, as in, he hasn’t missed a putt inside 8 feet all week long…because he’s remained patient.
Now that we know all of this, it will be much more interesting to see what Sunday will bring for Mr. Snedeker.