Brandt Snedeker looks to keep rally going
Golf is unique in so many ways, not the least of which was the situation Brandt Snedeker found himself in Sunday at the Heritage after shooting a final-round 64 at Harbour Town.
Playing more than two hours before the leaders, Snedeker posted a total of 12 under par for the tournament, which was good enough for the lead when he finished.
The problem was, 54-hole leader Luke Donald had about eight holes to play before he would complete his round. He could win outright; he could lose; or he might finish tied with Snedeker, necessitating a playoff.
What other sports asks a participant to wait around like that? A baseball reliever perhaps. Any kind of reserve who is called into action for a team in need of a boost or to relieve an injured player.
But Snedeker had seemingly done his work for the day. He played his 18 holes, the final round of the tournament, then had to wait. And wait.
"That was the longest two hours of my life," Snedeker said. "It was brutal. I tried to watch some of the golf, but then I never want to root against anybody, so it became hard to watch the golf, because I don't want them to do bad, but I don't want them to do great, either.
"I went outside, talked on my phone to a few people and really talked about anything but golf, and just try to forget about what was going on. I had a feeling there was going to be a playoff and then I was getting prepared for that. So I never really had a thought that I was going to win right out."
Sure enough, there was a playoff, and there was Snedeker right back on the par-4 18th, facing a must-make birdie putt after Donald had holed his. He poured it in, then won on the third extra hole when Donald failed to make par.
It was a clutch performance for Snedeker, who admitted he had no illusions of winning when he began the final round after what he termed a poor day on Saturday. Afterward, he went to work with his instructor, Todd Anderson, and found something that paid off in Sunday's nine-birdie effort that included one on the 72nd hole.
The victory capped an impressive run of golf dating to early March, when Snedeker had to withdraw from the Honda Classic due to the birth of his daughter. He was coming off missed cuts at Pebble Beach and Riviera but had posted two top-10s prior.
When he returned, sleep-deprived, two weeks after his daughter was born, Snedeker finished fourth at the Transitions Championship. After a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he tied for 15th at the Masters, then tied for fourth at the Valero Texas Open.
The victory at Hilton Head meant a fifth top-10 this season, a move to second in the FedEx Cup standings and more than $2 million in earnings this season.
In the process, Snedeker denied a former college rival -- Donald went to Northwestern, Snedeker to Vanderbilt -- a huge victory, one that would have given Donald two this year on the PGA Tour, along with golf's No. 1 ranking.
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The outcome certainly was important to Snedeker, 30, who claimed his second PGA Tour title. It all but assured him of a spot in each major championship this year and gives him the opportunity to improve his world ranking.
And he will head to this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans with a good bit of confidence.
"I think consistency-wise throughout the year, it's the best I've played," Snedeker said. "I've been telling people that for three months, it's the best I've played in my career. ... I don't know how to explain it. It's golf. That's what it does to you. It drives you crazy. And that's what makes it so special. It's nice to not play my best golf, obviously, the first three days, and come out and put one great round together, and get yourself right, and know I can win a golf tournament when I'm not playing my best.
"And playing great, I had one great day [Sunday] but I had a really bad day [Saturday], and two good days before that. So you don't have to play perfect golf for four rounds, that's what this is teaching me."
Golf World is reporting that Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is close to a sponsorship deal to save the Heritage golf tournament at Hilton Head, although the tournament has said that such reports are premature and that it is talking to several potential sponsors.
If RBC does sign on, that would give the Canada bank a second PGA Tour sponsorship along with one at the Canadian Open. The company also has several endorsement deals with players, including Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els.
Perhaps more important, however, is that a longtime popular event on the schedule would be saved.
Despite many obstacles in recent times, the PGA Tour and its local tournament organizers have done an admirable job of keeping the schedule full and re-signing sponsors or finding new ones.
The Bob Hope Classic, long on the endangered list, recently got Humana as a title sponsor. The WGC event at Doral brought on Cadillac for this year's event, and commissioner Tim Finchem has said the tour is working on a deal with Cadillac to bring an event back to Michigan, where the Buick Open was last played in 2009.
This is a crucial time for the PGA Tour as it negotiates a new network television contract. The current six-year deal expires at the end of the 2012 season, as do several title sponsorships. To be determined, still, is the makeup of the FedEx Cup going forward as well as how Fall Series events will be treated.
Last month, the tour said it was exploring the idea of revamping the fall events into a series of tournaments that would determine playing privileges for the following year. The PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament could also be changed as the Nationwide Tour also looks for a new umbrella sponsor.
Ian Poulter manages to entertain via his Twitter account, but the English golfer surely amused over the weekend with a series of tweets about the home he was renting on Hilton Head Island being haunted.
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Tweeted Poulter: "Check this out, we have a ghost in our house this week & I'm not joking we have had some very strange goings on every night."
"We have a dead bolted door in the house & every morning that door is unlocked & slightly open. It's happened 7 times already."
Among the replies came this one from John Daly: "BOO!"
Poulter, who is playing this week in South Korea, made several more references to the haunted house, including after his long-haul flight to the Ballantine's Championship.
if Tiger Woods' skipping next week's Wells Fargo Championship will cause him to add another tournament somewhere. And if he misses the Players Championship, would he not almost be compelled to do so?
Although we're only at the end of April, scheduling now will become an issue for all the top players.
So far this year, Woods has played in five PGA Tour events -- Farmers Insurance, Accenture Match Play, Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer and Masters. Assuming that his knee injury is minor and he is able to return relatively soon, he could perhaps add the Byron Nelson Championship.
He is likely to play the Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T National and British Open. After that, the schedule really gets tight. There are just two events -- the Canadian Open and the Greenbrier -- before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. A week later is the PGA Championship. After only a week break, the PGA Tour playoffs begin, a four-tournament run separating by one off week in the middle.
Would Woods add another tournament after the U.S. Open? That is unlikely, given the relatively short window between it and the British Open. What about after the British Open? Two years ago, Woods played the final Buick Open the week prior to the Bridgestone. Although he won, it would not be a stretch to say he regretted it later, as he won the following week and then lost the PGA Championship on the back nine.
So unless he does something completely different from the past, Woods is looking at playing another 10 tournaments if he is unable to go the next two weeks: Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T, British, Bridgestone, PGA and four playoff events (provided he is eligible).
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
Tiger, Ike tied together
Birdies And Bogeys
2. Lee Westwood. He got his first victory of the year, this one in Indonesia on the Asian Tour, a result that moved him back to the No. 1 ranking.
3. Tommy Gainey. "Two Gloves" missed a playoff by a shot at the Heritage, but his third-place finish was his third top-10 of the year and pushed his earnings to nearly $1 million, all but assuring he will keep his card for 2012.
1. Luke Donald. It's tough to knock a guy who lost in a playoff, but the Englishman clearly had the tournament in his grasp at Hilton Head, knowing exactly what he needed to do. He even had a par-5 to play and couldn't make the birdie he needed to win in regulation.
2. Ernie Els. The Big Easy went with a belly putter, but it didn't help and he missed the cut at the Heritage. Els has not fared better than a tie for 15th this year.
3. Jim Furyk. The defending Heritage champ appeared poised for a repeat but fell out of contention after shooting 76 in the final round. He tied for 21st after being just one back after 54 holes.
• By winning the Heritage, Brandt Snedeker not only got his second PGA Tour victory, but he is now 38th in the Official World Golf Ranking and is in the top 50 for the first time since October 2008.
• A week after winning the Valero Texas Open, PGA Tour rookie Brendan Steele finished tied for 22nd at the Heritage.
• Heritage playoff participants Snedeker and Luke Donald each have five top-10 finishes this year, along with Martin Laird, Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney. Last year's leading money winner, Matt Kuchar, leads with six top-10s.
• A week after making a 16 during the first round at the Valero Texas Open and missing the cut, Kevin Na bounced back nicely with a tie for ninth at the Heritage.
• So far this year on the PGA Tour, 11 of 17 stroke-play events have been decided by one stroke (five) or in a playoff (six).
• John Smoltz, former Atlanta Braves pitcher, is playing in this week's South Georgia Classic on the Nationwide Tour. He is the 10th former professional athlete to compete in a Nationwide event, although none have made the cut. Smoltz is a plus-2 handicap and was given a sponsor's exemption.
• The European Tour heads to South Korea for the Ballantine's Championship, where No. 1 Lee Westwood is in the field, along with Dustin Johnson and Ernie Els.
• After a three-week break following the Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA resumes this week at Mobile, Ala.
"The guys are giving me a lot of stick about it. But you know, these are legal tools. I want to give it a go." -- Ernie Els on experimenting with a belly putter
Catching up with '10 champ
Jason Bohn's wire-to-wire victory at last year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans was the second PGA Tour win of his career and set up an excellent season that saw him win more than $1.9 million and finish 62nd in the FedEx Cup standings. It capped an excellent comeback story, as Bohn was saddled with injuries in both 2007 and 2008 that threatened his career.
Since his victory a year ago, Bohn, 38, has not posted another top-10 finish. His best this year is a tie for 19th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He tied for 36th last week at the Heritage and is currently 136th in the FedEx Cup standings.