|Red-hot Brandt Snedeker can't wait to tee off|
|Posted 9/26/2012 7:52 PM ET|
MEDINAH, Ill. When he was growing up in Nashville, there were few things that would keep Brandt Snedeker off the golf course.
He played in the rain. He played in the cold. He played when he was sick. Rumor has it he even might have skipped school a couple of times to tee it up on the humble hills and hollows of Shelby Golf Course.
But for a long weekend every other year, Snedeker put his golf game on hold. He would plant himself in front of the nearest available TV screen and watch his idols compete in golf's ultimate team event, the Ryder Cup.
"I remember getting up every Friday, watching it all day, just going crazy," he said on Wednesday. "And then Saturday and Sunday were so much fun."
Then he flashes that Huck Finn grin.
"It's kind of crazy to think that I'm on that TV this time," he said. "I'm out there with other kids watching me do what I'm supposed to be doing. It's going to be a lot of pressure. ...
"I want to show everybody that I am playing some great golf right now. It's going to be a lot of fun."
That tells you all you need to know about Brandt Snedeker. The Ryder Cup is golf's ultimate torture chamber, a three-day event between the USA and Europe where a bad shot or a missed putt can swing momentum and change the course of the competition. And Snedeker, a Ryder Cup rookie, can't wait to get to the first tee on Friday.
Who can blame him? Snedeker arrives at legendary Medinah Country Club as the hottest player in the world. Last Sunday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, he won the Tour Championship to secure the FedExCup and its $10 million prize. Combined with the tournament title, he pocketed $11.4 million, the biggest single payday in the history of golf.
The cover of Golf Week magazine featured a picture of him after the clinching putt and took liberties with the nickname that has followed onto the PGA Tour, posting the headline $ned$.
"It's been a crazy 72 hours," he said. "I can't put into words what's been going on. It's just a dream come true, really."
But if you think success is going to spoil Snedeker, you don't know him or his family very well. When his father, Larry Snedeker, was practicing law, he worked with clients from various backgrounds. His mother, Candy, operated Pawns Unlimited in Nashville, where Brandt and older brother Haymes would hang out when they weren't locked in mortal combat on one of Nashville's municipal golf courses.
One family story holds that a man walked into the pawn shop one day with a boa constrictor. Candy took a look at the man in front of the counter and, without missing a beat, said: "We don't take anything we've got to feed -- store policy."
Maybe that's why Brandt Snedeker takes his golf very seriously but himself less so. With 18-month-old daughter and a second child on the way (wife Mandy is eight months pregnant), he counts his blessings, not his millions.
"I'm not by any means a flashy guy," he said. "Of anybody I know, I don't not need $11 million. â?¦ I'm not going to splurge on anything."
But the events of recent weeks have forced Snedeker to re-evaluate his goals. Being a consistent money-winner on the PGA Tour is no longer good enough. Now he wants to be considered among the best golfers in the world, perhaps even No. 1.
"I think the way this year has gone, if I keep improving, I don't see any reason why I can't challenge to be a top player in the world," he said. "People might think that's crazy talk but I don't. After the way I played the last six weeks, I think I proved I can do that."
To Snedeker, it's a natural progression. At 31, his game is coming of age.
"I think I've got a great plan in place," he said. "I'm not reinventing the wheel here. I don't need to have any major overhauls in my golf swing or try to redo something. I think what I'm doing is just fine. I'm getting better each year. â?¦
"I got better last year. As great as last year was, I got even better this year, and I look forward to next year being my best year ever."
For now, though, his focus is the Ryder Cup. Snedeker's lack of international team competition (he played in the 2008 World Cup but has not played in the Presidents Cup) could be a liability.
But U.S. captain Davis Love III has spoken highly of Snedeker, saying he "can be paired with anyone" because of his solid all-around game and even temperament.
Plus, it's hard to imagine keeping the game's hottest player out of at least one match on both Friday and Saturday in addition to the singles matches on Sunday when all 12 players from each team will be in action.
Love mentioned Snedeker and fellow Ryder Cup rookie Jason Dufner as players who might be involved in all five matches â?? foursomes (alternate shot) on Friday and Saturday mornings and four-ball (best ball) on Friday and Saturday afternoons, as well as Sunday's singles matches.
"You might get a guy like Brandt or Duf or somebody like that that's really hot and you just say, we can't ever pull him out, so they may end up with five matches," Love said.
One thing neither Love nor anyone has to worry about is Snedeker's mind-set. The young Southern gentleman will be in full attack mode when the Ryder Cup begins.
"I'm very, very competitive," he said. "People don't get that because I'm polite. But when I tee it up on Friday against anybody, I'm going to try to beat their brains in as bad as I can."
For Brandt Snedeker, the Ryder Cup can't start soon enough.
Climer writes for The Tennessean
|Posted 9/26/2012 7:52 PM ET|