OPEN GOLF: Snedeker sets the Lytham paceJuly, 2012
A man who never before made an Open cut leads the way
Whenever Brandt Snedeker is going well he looks like the kind of player who should be in contention every week.
The action looks so simple and repeatable. And his putting stroke is just the same in miniature – brisk and positive.
On Friday at the Open Championship he was at his very best. While all around him struggled to make any progress through the field, he was following his opening 66 with another birdie blitz. The result was a blemish-free 64 as he tied Nick Faldo’s 36-hole Open record low aggregate of 130.
He has not yet found any of Lytham’s 205 bunkers.
Snedeker opened with a two at the 1st, just as he had on Friday, then added another three birdies on his way out in a meagre 30 strokes.
That was 27 holes completed without a single dropped shot – not bad in a championship where it seems birdies can found but trouble can not be avoided for long.
On the back nine it was more of the same – birdies at 11 and 12 followed by six straight pars to finish. Even when he missed the last fairway and had to hack out, a wedge to 10 feet and a sure putt saved par.
“I’m sure everybody in this room is in about as much shock as I am right now,” said Snedeker. “But I feel good. I call it boring golf. I’m shooting away from every pin, trying to put it 25, 30 feet away and hopefully make some putts, which I’ve done the first two days and hopefully plan on doing the next few days.”
Some may remember Snedeker finishing 3rd at the Masters in 2008, an event he led at one point, before Trevor Immelman came through to beat him. After a final-round 77, Snedeker, from Nashville, Tennessee, broke down in tears.
That, he says, gives an inaccurate impression of his character.
“I’m probably the most level-headed guy you’ll see play on tour. I never make a shot out of anger or make a shot because I’m not playing good. I kind of do the same thing every time. When I hit a shot, I might do some funny body language or something like that, that’s just me trying to help it any way I possibly can.”
Snedeker does have a win to his name this year, back in January at the Farmers Insurance on the PGA Tour but his Open record until this week was not exactly stellar.
As a child he grew up with Tom Watson as his hero and it was the five-time champion he turned to for a practice round on his Open debut at Birkdale four years ago.
You can see some similarities between the two in terms of the briskness of swing and general speed of decision-making and play.
“It helped a bunch playing with him. “He told me the first time over here he wasn’t a big fan of links golf. The second time he played he loved it. You’ve got to kind of embrace it, realise that you’re going to get good bounces, bad bounces, but you don’t really – expect the worst and hope for the best.”
This is the 31-year-old’s fourth appearance and he has never previously made it to the weekend. After Birkdale in 2008, he played at Turnberry a year later and Sandwich last year.
Snedeker has not yet found any of Lytham’s 205 bunkers.
Only once had he even matched par and he was a cumulative 25 over par for his six rounds.
“I love being over here,” he said. “I played a British Am over here a long time ago when I was in college. I enjoy the lifestyle over here. I enjoy the golf. It’s funny I’ve never played good, because I like being over here and having a good time with it.”
Nor has he been in especially impressive form of late. He has not finished in the top 10 of a strokeplay event since his dramatic win at Torrey Pines, when he took advantage of Kyle Stanley’s late collapse to win a play-off.
He currently sits 19th in qualifying for the American Ryder Cup team.
Now he is ideally positioned to become the 15thsuccessive different Major winner and 10th successive first-time Major champion.
The former record dates back to Padraig Harrington wining the 2008 Open and PGA. The latter to Phil Mickelson’s victory at the 2010 Masters.
“I’ve got a cushion, which is nice,” he said. “I don’t have to play the best golf over the next 36 holes.
“I have to play good golf, but maybe not the best of anybody. So that’s always nice to have. That being said, I’m going to go out there and try to do the exact same things I did the first two days and hit a bunch of greens and make a bunch of putts and try to extend my lead as far as possible.”