Brandt Snedeker returns to PGA Tour after long sternum issue, ‘experimental surgery’

Brandt Snedeker was just the second person on record to undergo an “experimental” sternum procedure in December

Brandt Snedeker is making his return to the PGA Tour this week at the Memorial Tournament, but his nearly nine-month break from golf sounded anything but fun.

Snedeker revealed Wednesday that he had undergone an “experimental” procedure in December to fix a lingering sternum issue, and he’s been recovering ever since.

“Luckily, everything kind of went the way it was supposed to,” Snedeker said from Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. “Took a bone out of my hip and cut my sternum open and kind of created a new sternum in a sense. It is way more stable and hopefully does not cause me pain. So, so far, so good.”

Snedeker was diagnosed with manubrium joint instability, and he's been dealing with the issue since 2016. After the British Open the following year, he said it “felt like I broke my sternum.” He’s tried just about everything to try and fix it since then, including flying to South America for stem cell treatments.

Typically, Snedeker said, the injury comes from some sort of a traumatic event like a car accident. He, however, wasn’t involved in anything like that. His injury is the “only one that was on record of non-trauma related.” He’s not really sure how he got it, either.

Then at the end of last year, after struggling through the Fortinet Championship in September, Snedeker knew he had to do something different. The pain was just too much to keep playing through.

So in December, after convincing his longtime doctor, Snedeker underwent the “experimental surgery” in Nashville. The procedure had only been done one other time by that point.

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker was just the second person on record to undergo an “experimental” sternum procedure in December. (Marc Lebryk/USA Today) (USA Today Sports / reuters)

“They took a bone about the size of my thumb out of my hip and they cut my sternum open and kind of cut across it and made a huge incision,” Snedeker said. “They dialed out about the size of my pinkie on my lower part of the sternum and upper part and put that bone in the middle of 'em and kind of created a dowel almost like thing. And then wrapped it with bone putty and paste and tried to kind of let it heal and reattach itself. So kind of broke my sternum on purpose, cut my sternum open and then kind of reattached it.”

Snedeker then took about five months off. He didn’t start hitting balls again until April 1, and didn’t play a full round until April 21.

Though it was a bit slow going, and he admitted he couldn't hit the range for long periods of time, Snedeker is feeling much, much better.

“I didn't have a setback,” he said. “Kind of kept getting better and better and never really had any pain or any kind of — I'll have some stiffness and soreness and that kind of stuff that's to be expected. I mean, I got my chest cut open, so it's going to be sore. But no pain or no sharp tingling or anything like that.”

Snedeker, 42, has won nine times on the tour in his career. His last win came at the Wyndham Championship in 2018. He made the cut just eight times in 22 attempts last season, and he finished T59 at the Fortinet Championship in September. Snedeker will tee off on Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Memorial Tournament alongside Davis Riley and Lucas Herbert.

His tour status is about to run out, too. He has five more events left on his minor medical exemption, and then his golf future will be a bit up in the air. Snedeker’s past wins and his spot at No. 27 on the all-time career money list will still help get him into certain events. But if he can't extend his tour card, it could get difficult.

Still, regardless of where his golf future takes him, Snedeker has no regrets about undergoing the procedure — even if it meant that he had to move on from golfing professionally.

“The decision I made at the end of last year was either this is going to work or it's not,” Snedeker said. “I can't keep doing what I'm doing. So if it doesn't work, then I'll find something else to do. And if it does work then hopefully I can come back here and do this. So that was kind of the thought process. I can't keep hitting my head against the same wall.

"So I had faith it would work, but you never know.”