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Inside the Ropes: Snedeker ready for major breakthrough

The SportsXchange

Brandt Snedeker has had his chances in the majors, most notably at the Masters in 2008 and again earlier this year, before melting down under the pressure on Sunday.

Players talk about going through a process before they finally break through to win one of the Grand Slam events, and Snedeker has had enough of it.

"I hope the process is over," said Snedeker, still smarting from shooting 80 to miss the cut last week in the Memorial before he tees it up Thursday in the FedEx St. Jude Classic prior to heading to Merion for the U.S. Open. "I'm ready. I feel like my game's ready.

"The biggest hurdle, I think, with winning a major championship is being mentally prepared to handle the stress that you are going to have to handle the last two rounds. I feel like between (winning) the Tour Championship last year and Pebble Beach this year, I feel like I can handle just about any situation I put myself into."

In 2008, Snedeker was two strokes behind leader and eventual winner Trevor Immelman entering the final round at Augusta National, but he closed with a 5-over-par 77 and wound up in tears and in a tie for third.

This year in the first major of the season, he was tied for the lead with Angel Cabrera of Argentina after 54 holes. However, Snedeker posted a 75 on Sunday and skidded to a tie for sixth as Adam Scott became the first Aussie to claim the Green Jacket.

"I think the hardest way to win a golf tournament is to have a lead, sleep on a lead and play and win," said Snedeker, who also held the lead after two rounds in the Open Championship last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, tying the tournament record at 66-64--130, but shot 73-74 on the weekend and wound up in a tie for third.

"It's a lot easier to win golf tournaments from behind because you know what you have to do. When you are in the lead, you don't know what you have to do."

Snedeker has been there on several occasions now, also finishing in the top 10 in the U.S. Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines and in 2010 at Pebble Beach, in addition to a tie for 11th two years ago at Congressional.

He believes he can solve the last piece of the puzzle.

"I know I was pretty depressed and pretty down afterward because I really felt like I was going to win," he said of his feelings when it was over at the Masters this year. "I felt like I was playing great and doing everything the right way, and (feeling blue is) the way you always are after you lose.

"But getting back and looking back on things, I accomplished a lot of my goals that week. I got in the last group, which if you look at the tradition in the history of the Masters, it's a pretty good place to be. Your odds of winning increase dramatically if you're there.

"So that's a great positive I took out of it. I played really well for 54 holes, and if I putt the way I normally do on Sunday, I think I have a really good chance of winning that golf tournament. So I took a lot of really good stuff out of that."

That Snedeker has been able to accomplish what he has in the last six years, claiming five victories on the PGA Tour and capturing the 2012 FedEx Cup, is pretty remarkable considering the time he has missed because of a series of injuries.

Two years in a row, in 2010 and 2011, he had seasons cut short by surgeries, one on each hip to correct a degenerative problem.

However, even more disturbing has been a series of broken ribs, the fourth in six years knocking him out of several tournaments, including the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco last year.

Snedeker came back strong in the second half of the season to claim the FedEx Cup and picked up right where he left off when he started this year with four top-three finishes in his first five events, including the victory at Pebble Beach.

Then, the injury bug hit again, with a strained intercostal muscle in his ribcage area, but this time he got some answers.

Snedeker, who rose to No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings with his early-season surge and now is at No. 5, was diagnosed with a rare condition known as low bone turnover, which makes his bones more brittle than normal, particularly his ribs.

"I had everything tested and they found this one anomaly in my DNA," Snedeker told Golf magazine. "What it boils down to is that my ribs are just really brittle compared to the rest of my bones. So I'm on this medication that is supposed to strengthen your bones and keep this stuff from happening."

That problem solved, he must find the answer in the final round of a major.


PGA TOUR: FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 3-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EDT on CBS.

LAST YEAR: Dustin Johnson came from two shots behind by shooting 4-under-par 66 in the final round to win by one stroke over John Merrick. Johnson, who won for the fifth consecutive year on the PGA Tour and made it six by capturing the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to start this season, was still one stroke back after 16 holes on Sunday in Memphis. Then he holed birdie putts of 11 feet on the 16th hole and nine feet on the 17th before carding a solid par on the closing hole to win in his second tournament back after missing almost three months because of a back injury. Rory McIlroy, Chad Campbell and Nick O'Hern had chances to tie Johnson with a birdie on the 18th hole, but each hit his approach shot into the water. McIlroy carded four birdies through 11 holes on Sunday to take a two-stroke lead, but he recorded two bogeys early on the back nine and a double bogey on the final hole.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club in Shoal Creek, Ala., Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Defending champion Tom Lehman posted four scores in the 60s and withstood persistent rain in the final round to claim his sixth victory on the Champions Tour and third senior major title by two strokes over Bernhard Langer of Germany and Chien Soon Lu of Taiwan. Lehman, who later captured the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, became the first player to repeat in a senior major championship since Allen Doyle won the U.S. Senior Open in 2005 and 2006. Langer, who closed with a 6-under-par 66 in search of his third senior major title, pulled into a tie for the lead by carding four birdies in the first seven holes. However, Lehman answered with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7 and pushed his lead to two strokes with a short birdie putt at No. 13. He added another birdie at No. 16 en route to a 68.

LPGA TOUR: Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y., Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 12:30-3 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 3-7 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Shanshan Feng posted a 5-under-par 67, low score of the week, in the final round and became the first player from mainland China to win on the LPGA Tour. She took a two-stroke victory in the second major of the year on the women's circuit. Stacy Lewis (70), Mika Miyazato (69) of Japan, Suzann Pettersen of Norway (70) and Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea, the 54-hole leader who closed with a 72, tied for second. Feng, who became the seventh player to claim the first victory of her career in the LPGA Championship, was clinging to a one-stroke lead when she drove into a bunker on the par-5 17th hole. Forced to lay up, she followed with an approach shot to within inches of the hole for a birdie and chipped to within two feet for a closing par after missing the final green.
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