Rubenstein: The Snedeker way
Brandt Snedeker is one of golf’s fastest players, even when he’s playing for a bonus of $10 million (all figures U.S.) in the FedEx Cup and the $1.44 million that was the prize for winning the Tour Championship on Sunday. He won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, and in the process - his fast process - he taught golfers a lesson. Faster is better.
The most difficult thing about golf is that the ball sits still. A player can freeze over the ball in trying to start the swing. Robert Karlsson withdrew from the Open Championship in July, shortly before it started, because he had gotten so tied up that he couldn’t take the club back. Ben Hogan in the later stages of his career had trouble drawing the putter back.
Snedeker hasn’t experienced such vexing and perplexing problems, and it has to be said that the game isn’t getting faster for most players. Slow play is usual these days. If Snedeker varied his quick routine - it can hardly be called a routine at all - during the final round of the Tour Championship, I sure didn’t notice. He didn’t let the good, the bad, or the ugly affect his pace, even for the preposterous amount of money on the line.
That was impressive. Snedeker drove into the lake on the sixth hole, made double-bogey, and went on his speedy way. He holed a testy par putt the next hole, and then buried a 39-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole that was moving. It was moving fast, as he does. Snedeker sized up the putt, felt the speed, and made his stroke. Down and in. That was the beginning of the end for the other players.
Snedeker thinks and plays so quickly that the idea of winning such a gigantic stash of money didn’t enter his mind until he stood on the long, par-three 18th hole with a four-shot lead over Justin Rose, with whom he was playing. His caddy, Scott Vail, who is from Oshawa, Ont. and whose father Eric played nine seasons in the NHL, wanted him to play short. But that’s not Snedeker. He took on the green. Asked about whether he had been thinking about the big prize during the last round, here’s what he said. Quickly.
“Not at all. I was so worried about trying to beat Justin to win the Tour Championship today. I was not thinking about the $10 million at all until the last hole, and I hit an awful shot. So that shows you what that does for you.”
Okay, we know his price, and when he thinks too much. Ten million. On the last hole. When he holds a big lead and can’t lose. When all is said and done, and he says it all quickly and does it rapidly, Snedeker just plays golf the better way. Laboured golf is not for him.
"Brandt is a momentum-type guy, once he gets going and starting making putts and hitting shots,” Mark Calcavecchia, a zip ‘em, miss ‘em quick player himself, said halfway through the Open in July. Snedeker was leading at the time. "He plays quick and he's got the quick tempo and he putts quick. And they go in quick. That's awesome golf."
Snedeker had shot 66-64 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England to hold a one-shot lead. But he shot 73-74 on the weekend to tie for third and finish four shots behind winner Ernie Els. But he wasn’t going to change his ways and take more time. Instead he spoke with the people closest to him and decided it was time to truly start believing in himself.
It couldn’t have hurt his self-confidence when U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III took him as one of his four captain’s picks. Love likes Snedeker’s speedy play. He likes the fact that he’s a tremendous putter. How hard is it to read a green? Snedeker doesn’t so much read a green as absorb the line and pace by instinct.
Snedeker, a man of speed, will arrive at the Medinah Country Club outside Chicago Monday afternoon to join his teammates for the Ryder Cup, which starts Sept. 28th. It might be hard for him to wait the three and a half days until the matches start.
He’ll be raring to go. And when he does go, he will move. But fast. That’s the way to go. That’s the way to golf. The Snedeker way.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein