Category archive: Brandt Snedeker
PINEHURST, N.C. -- It's too early in the first round of the U.S. Open to give much credence to the leaderboard, but it's surprising to see Brandt Snedeker up there with three early birdies.
The 33-year-old, six-time tour winner and former FedEx Cup playoff champion has only one top-10 in 15 events in 2014, a tie for eighth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
His three quick birdies might have to do with his putting a new putter into play this week. Sneds is using an ultra lightweight True Balance putter from Bridgestone.
The turtleback greens at Pinehurst No. 2 can force the best players in the world to take some unusual measures to compete. Rarely do players use major championships as an occasion to install new equipment or make significant technical shifts. Phil Mickelson surprised many earlier this week by going to a claw grip to better control his pace on these undulating greens.
Snedeker has two top-10s in seven U.S. Open appearances.
Maintaining status as one of the sport's elite players is a rare achievement in the world of golf. Gravity remains undefeated, in both life and the Official World Golf Ranking. What goes up must come down.
Ask former world No. 1 Lee Westwood, who's 32nd in the ranking this week. Or Bo Van Pelt, who was 23rd to open up 2013 but is now 78th and without a line in this year's WGC-Accenture Match Play bracket.
Trivia questionTiger Woods is the only player to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play in back-to-back years (2003-04). Who is the only player to finish runner-up in back-to-back years? Answer below
Several of the game's stars are off to rough starts this season. We at Numbers Game examine what's plaguing three elite players as the golf world's attention turns to Dove Mountain.
There are three unquestionable truths regarding Fowler: an ostentatious wardrobe, appeal to young fans everywhere and stellar iron play. The third trait might be the least famous of the three, but the numbers support the claim -- Fowler ranks sixth or better on tour in approach shot proximity on shots between 100-125, 125-150 and 150-175 yards.
But Mr. Flatbill has missed each of his last three cuts. Granted, he's recently started working with a new swing coach, Butch Harmon, but last year he never once missed the cut in back-to-back PGA Tour starts. Fowler's short game is the biggest reason for his struggles this year, as his scrambling percentage ranks outside the top 100 on tour in all denominations of the statistic (from inside 10 yards and between 10-20 yards and 20-30 yards).
It's his putter, however, that's the biggest culprit. So far this season, the numbers say that Fowler has regressed from an average putter to an abysmal one.
In 2013, Fowler ranked 24th on tour in strokes gained putting. He's 175th this season. On putts inside 10 feet, Fowler has dropped from 79th to 161st.
All of this spells trouble for Fowler coming into the Match Play, where he's been bounced in the first round each of the last two years. Oh, and Fowler's first-round matchup? Match play dynamo Ian Poulter.
A knee injury suffered last fall that involved a motorized scooter will take the brunt of the blame for Snedeker's slow start to the season. Snedeker has no top-10 finishes and just one top-25 in six starts so far this year.
At first glance, it seems like his full swing isn't the issue. Snedeker's ballstriking and driving accuracy ranks have improved this year. And he actually has the exact same PGA Tour rank in greens in regulation percentage this year (79th) that he did last season.
Not all GIRs are created equal, though. Snedeker ranked T-13 last year on tour in average approach shot proximity. He's 172nd so far this season in the stat.
Snedeker's trademark elite putting has diminished significantly early on this season. In 2012, he led the PGA Tour in both strokes gained putting and one-putt percentage. Last year, he was fourth and sixth in those statistics, respectively. This year? He's 58th in strokes gained putting and tied for 103rd in one-putts.
In particular, Snedeker's putting between 10 and 15 feet has really hurt him. When Snedeker led the tour in strokes gained putting in 2012, he made more than 38 percent of his putts from that distance. So far this year, he's making about 22 percent -- tied for 150th on the PGA Tour.
Snedeker draws David Lynn in the first round of match play, he of one career appearance at Dove Mountain (2013, where he lost in first round). Regardless of his opponent, though, Snedeker will need to play much better this week if he hopes to climb through the Jones Bracket.
He's made the cut in five of six starts so far this season, but with no top-25 finishes, Watney is struggling by his own high standards. Once again, it's the flat-stick that has dictated this decline.
When Watney ascended into the top 10 in the world back in 2011, it was largely because he became an elite putter. That season, Watney ranked in the top 12 on tour in strokes gained putting, birdie-or-better conversion percentage and putting inside 10 feet. This year, Watney is outside the top 100 in each of those statistics.
Question: Tiger Woods is the only player to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play in back-to-back years (2003-04). Who is the only player to finish runner-up in back-to-back years?
Answer: Paul Casey, 2009-10
How significantly do putting numbers affect one's ability to score? Watney's tour ranks in greens in regulation percentage (59th) and approach shot proximity (T-34) are actually better this season than they were in 2011 (T-54th and T-68th), but his scoring average rank is 93 spots lower -- down from fifth to 98th.
Watney faces Louis Oosthuizen in an 8-vs.-9-seed first-round matchup. He's gotten out of his first match in all four career starts at this event, but his recent putting woes say not to bet on it happening again.
Snedeker admitted he was a bit apprehensive at the start after dealing with a rib injury, especially given the cool morning conditions. He made two birdies but was really hurt by a triple-bogey at the 17th.
"I'm actually very encouraged despite shooting 4-over," he said. "But my iron game was just terrible."
Snedeker will try to go low to make the 36-hole cut on Friday. He is scheduled to play the Shell Houston Open next week.
Ryo Ishikawa opened the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 69, an important start to the tournament considering his rookie season on the PGA Tour has been pretty much a disaster.
The Japanese star -- who has received an invitation to the Masters for the third time -- has made just two cuts in seven starts this year, and one was in Puerto Rico, an opposite field event. He has fallen to 99th in the world.
Ishikawa, 21, has 10 titles on the Japan Golf Tour, including one late last year. He earned his tour card this year after taking up special temporary status in 2012.
Last year, Ishikawa faced considerable consternation when he received the Masters invite while Ernie Els did not get one. He has played in four Masters and made just one cut.
Geoff Ogilvy's 70 was necessary in a crucial week for the 2006 U.S. Open champion.
Ranked 50th in the world, he can fall no lower as of March 31 if he wants a Masters invitation. A strong tournament at Bay Hill would all but lock up a spot, especially with a strong field, meaning more ranking points.
Ogilvy, who narrowly missed the top 50 at the end of the year which would have earned him that Masters invite, jumped back inside the top 50 with a second-place finish three weeks ago at the Honda Classic. He will enter the second round in a tie for 13th, 5 strokes back of leader Justin Rose.
This week's tournament: Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
Horse for the Course
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jason Day
He could be this year's golfer to go from starting the playoffs outside the top 100 (113th) in the FedEx Cup standings to the Tour Championship (top 30). Coming into the playoffs, he had only 13 starts on tour this year, with three missed cuts and a W/D, but a strong Sunday finish (65) just so he could qualify for the Deutsche Bank leads him to a course where he finished third last year, and was one of only four players to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Vijay Singh
At the TPC Boston, the 49-year-old Hall of Famer is a combined 38-under par in his two wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
TPC Boston is another place where Woods has performed well over the years. In seven appearances, he's been out of the top 11 just once, and he won in 2006.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Brandt Snedeker
Looking to solidify a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a potential captain's pick, the man who leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting posted a pair of top-5 finishes in his past two starts at the Deutsche Bank Championship. And what Ryder Cup captain wouldn't want the best putter on tour on his team?
Michael Collins: Nick Watney
In 2011 he had two victories, but before winning last week at The Barclays, he had only three top-10s this year, with eighth place his highest finish. Not the year the Butch Harmon student was planning for himself, but there's something to be said for getting hot at the right time. Even though this will be his fifth week in a row teeing it up, when you're rollin' . . . don't stop rollin'! And if Bill Haas won the big money Fed Ex Cup prize last year, it only would be fitting if his stunt double Watney put himself in a prime position to take it this year.
Farrell Evans: Bud Cauley
At The Barclays, the 22-year-old rookie out of the University of Alabama got his fourth top-10 in his past five starts.
Bob Harig: Nick Watney
He just showed how important a win is in the FedEx Cup playoffs, jumping from 49th in the standings to the top spot with his victory at The Barclays.
Kevin Maguire: Steve Stricker
A T-54 at last week's Barclays probably isn't the way Stricker wanted to start his playoffs, but the likely Ryder Cup captain's pick does own a pair of career victories in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He seems to relish playing at this time of year, so expect that to continue this week at TPC Boston.
Michael Collins: J.B. Holmes
After making seven cuts in a row, it's almost a blessing in disguise that he missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship. Holmes has played himself into a position to make the Tour Championship with a good week, and the last time he played this week's course, in 2010, he finished 10th. It's a bomber's course and he is still a bomber.
Farrell Evans: Jason Day
The 24-year-old Australian got a tie for third in Boston last year. In a disappointing 2012 season, Day comes into this week 88th in the standings. He would love to make it back to the Tour Championship, where he finished last year in a tie for sixth.
Bob Harig: Martin Flores
He missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship and at The Barclays last week, dropping him 12 spots to the 100th and final qualifying position for the Deutsche Bank Championship. He clearly needs to get something going if he wants to prolong his playoffs.
Kevin Maguire: Dicky Pride
Talk about playing with house money. Pride clinched his tour card for 2013 behind the strength of three top-10 finishes this year. He hadn't had one previously since mid-2009. And at 96th in the FedEx Cup standings, a strong week gets him into the third leg of the PGA Tour playoffs, a spot he likely couldn't have imagined at the beginning of the season.
Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy
Because he wasn't a member of the tour last year, he wasn't eligible for the playoffs. He did compete in 2010, with a 37th-place finish at the TPC Boston. He has two more years of experience and two majors under his belt, and I expect a very good week on a course that sets up well for his style of golf. With a tour scoring average of 69.02, if he just holds his average, it'll be an easy top 10. I expect much more than that this week.
Farrell Evans: Brandt Snedeker
The former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion finished second at The Barclays. He's playing this week in Boston hoping that a great tournament will get him a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Last year, the former Vanderbilt star finished in a tie for third at the Deutsche Bank.
Bob Harig: Adam Scott
Save for his near-miss at the Open Championship, it's been a quiet year for the Aussie, who won his first PGA Tour event nine years ago at TPC Boston. A victory this week puts him near the top and in the running for the FedEx Cup.
Kevin Maguire: Jason Day
Never underestimate motivation. The Aussie, who's finished T-3 and T-2 in his previous two outings at TPC Boston, is currently on the outside looking in at next week's BMW Championship. Without a strong finish, his playoffs could end Saturday. Don't expect the new dad to get some extra time off on the holiday weekend.