Brandt Snedeker’s Sunday began 11 miles from the scene of his $11 million score.
Cut to the quiet of an Atlanta hospital room. It was just hours before Snedeker would tee off for the chance to win more in one day than he had in any four of his PGA Tour seasons combined. He was there to visit, as best he could, the injured son of Todd Anderson, his swing coach.
Only natural the subject of the Tour Championship would arise.
So, Tucker, you think I can beat Rory today?
Tucker Anderson had been involved in a near fatal car accident in Florida two weeks ago and was transferred to the Shepherd Center for treatment of a traumatic brain injury. The teen can’t speak yet. But as Snedeker relayed later, Tucker answered him with a wink.
“That’s all I needed,” Snedeker said.
C’mon, how you gonna beat that?
The third-round co-leader of the Tour Championship made the short drive to East Lake Golf Club and buried Rory McIlroy and all other contenders for both the $1.4 million Tour Championship title and the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus. He rendered moot all other scenarios about who could claim the big playoff payoff with a closing 68, the only sub-par round coming from the day’s last five twosomes. He was 10-under for the week.
As Snedeker made his way around breezy East Lake – surviving a drowned tee ball on the par-3 sixth, shrugging off his shot to the par-3 18th that ended up in the fourth row of the box seats – he was accompanied step for step by his father Larry for only the second tournament this year. It was in August, 2011 when he received a new liver to replace the cancerous original.
“I don’t like to put any one experience over the other; we’ve had so many good ones. But this one has to rank right up there with the best,” Larry said afterward. His son is a three-time winner on Tour and is bound for his first Ryder Cup this week. But he has never won this much in this fashion before.
Seriously, how you gonna beat that?
As all the sentimental subplots lined up behind Snedeker, he was left to do the very practical, very hard-edged work of performing under the pressure of trying to beat a select field for a king’s ransom. Snedeker put his head down, claiming to never once cheat and peek at any of the electronic scoreboards on the course, and just concentrated on letting his golf be good enough.
The method worked. McIlroy, who had won two out of the three playoff events leading to the Tour Championship, could not quibble with the result.
“Brandt deserves this,” he said.
McIlroy was atop the FedEx Cup point standings entering the finale at East Lake. Snedeker was No. 5, the last of the top group assured of winning the playoff by winning the Tour Championship. Addressing the media afterward, Snedeker joked, “I’m sure 90 percent of you probably didn’t pick me to win today because I’ve never done it before. And I don’t blame you.”
McIlroy, who had 11 straight rounds in the 60s entering Sunday, picked an exceptionally poor time to break with habit. His 74 Sunday left him 1-under for the Tour Championship and nine shots to the aft of Snedeker.
Tiger Woods had a puncher’s chance to claim it all Sunday, but he likewise faded into the background, shooting a 2-over 72.
There are no real losers during Tour Championship week. John Huh was 14-over for the tournament and, between Tour Championship and FedEx payouts, still went home with more than $300,000.
Some, however, just win a whole lot more than others.
Snedeker had become known for winning with big last-round rallies. This time, he was the lead dog the entire way. At no time did he ever lose the lead Sunday, even when he suffered a double-bogey 5 on the sixth hole after his tee ball found the lake for which this place is named. Significantly, he was 3-under from that point.
A tee shot that plunked off the flank of a hospitality area on the 17th fairway hardly foretold a comfortable victory for Snedeker. His approach to the par-4 flirted with the bordering water. But he chipped in for birdie from 28 feet to give himself a four-shot lead over Justin Rose going to the last hole. His bogey on 18 was but a cosmetic flaw.
“Today was my day to go out and prove a bunch of people wrong, that I can play with the lead,” a proud Snedeker said. He carries with him to the Ryder Cup a kit bag full of confidence.
“I’m a lot better under pressure than I gave myself credit for,” he said. “I’ve learned that over [the course of the FedEx Cup]. I’ve had a lot of pressure the last four weeks. To be able to focus in and do what I did was pretty impressive.”
There was just no way to beat that.