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Snedeker's snafu only a brief setback?

His place in the Masters should be secure, his invitation delivered long ago. Brandt Snedeker ought to be lining up rental homes, securing badges and dreaming of another drive down Magnolia Lane at Augusta National.

But all of that is on hold. Come to think of it, so is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the Open Championship at St. Andrews -- all because Snedeker missed a 3-foot putt way back on the first weekend of the NFL season.

Had he converted that simple little putt on the final green on the final day of the BMW Championship, Snedeker would have qualified for the first three major championships of 2010.

Five months later, he is still trying.

"It's funny how you look back on it and think how much better I would have felt about my year if I had made a 3-footer," said Snedeker, 29, now in his fourth year on the PGA Tour. "It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that it was just one stroke out of the whole year. It's about a lot more than that.

"When I step back, I had a really good year when you consider where I came from in June. I was hurt, I was wondering what was going on. All in all it was a pretty successful year. You think about making a million and a half dollars in half a year and having a couple of chances to win golf tournaments. You're doing the right stuff.

"It's unfortunate that what lingers is missing one putt."

And yet, it is difficult to think otherwise when a trip to the Masters and the other majors came down to such a short piece of real estate.

Snedeker, who played in the final pairing at the 2008 Masters with eventual champion Trevor Immelman and finished tied for third, missed two months of the 2009 season with a rib injury that had him worried about retaining his PGA Tour card.

When he finally returned, Snedeker played 13 of the last 14 weeks, through the BMW Championship, to put himself in a position to make the Tour Championship field, reserved for the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup points standings.

In addition to a nice guaranteed payday, a Tour Championship berth also means entry into the year's first three major championships.

Playing in the final threesome along with eventual winner Tiger Woods, Snedeker stood on the 18th tee in 28th place in the projected points. After hitting a poor drive, Snedeker had to lay up in front of a pond at the par-4 finishing hole.

And then he asked NBC analyst Roger Maltbie what he needed to be secure. Snedeker thought he needed a par, but Maltbie correctly told him a bogey would get the job done. Snedeker later acknowledged he should have been concentrating on the task at hand, not asking a television analyst where he stood.

"Everything happens for a reason, and unfortunately I needed that to happen to grow as a golfer," Snedeker said. "I was playing for too long not thinking about the right things and getting away with it. You get in those high-stress situations and you're not thinking the right things, it flares up.

"And it flared up at the wrong time."

After hitting his third shot on the green, Snedeker had a 12-footer for par and left himself a 3-footer for bogey. He missed that, and then even missed the little short one after, four-putting for a disastrous triple-bogey 7.

I had a week at home where I didn't want to think about it, talk about it or do anything about it. I didn't sleep for a couple of nights. And that's the way it is supposed to be. If you didn't feel that way about it, you should be playing something else.

-- Brandt Snedeker on his finish at September's BMW Championship

In addition to failing to lock up an invitation to the Masters, Snedeker missed out on at least $215,000 in prize money -- what he lost at the BMW Championship plus the minimum he would have been paid for being in the Tour Championship.

But the pain of not getting into the Masters hurt a lot more than missing out on the cash.

Snedeker made a nice run at the title two years ago, eagling the second hole in the final round and then making a birdie at the 12th that kept him in contention. But he stumbled to a 77 and struggled to keep his emotions in check afterward. Last year, he missed the Masters cut (the top 16 and ties get invited back), so his return to Augusta was not assured -- making the BMW finish all the more miserable.

"I had a week at home where I didn't want to think about it, talk about it or do anything about it," Snedeker said. "I didn't sleep for a couple of nights. And that's the way it is supposed to be. If you didn't feel that way about it, you should be playing something else. You're going to go through that kind of stuff."

A few weeks later, Snedeker was at the Turning Stone Resort Championship -- a Fall Series event he very well might have skipped otherwise -- and was playing a practice round with Johnson Wagner. During a pre-tournament money game, Snedeker found himself facing a 3-footer, one that Wagner would not give him. "I want to see you putt that one," Wagner said. "I know how you shake over 3-footers."

Ouch.

Snedeker chuckles at the memory, knowing it was all in fun -- and also knowing that he suffered a lot worse than taking some grief from a peer.

"Hopefully next time I get in a situation like that, I'll handle it a lot better," he said.

The good news for Snedeker is he's off to a good start this year and has given himself a chance to make the Masters field.

The top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking following the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the end of March will get an invitation. A victory will also get him in.

Snedeker began the season ranked 96th, but he has moved up to 72nd after a tie for 10th at the Bob Hope Classic, a tie for second at the Farmers Insurance Open and a tie for 20th at the Northern Trust Open.

"The Masters is my main goal right now," he said. "If I get in the Masters, I figure I've had a great start to the year."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.