Brandt Snedeker has won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup after a gutty Sunday that saw him outlast Ryan Moore and Justin Rose for the biggest win in his career.
His chip-in birdie from off the 17th hole was the kind of shot that creates a legend. Snedeker had survived a double-bogey on the sixth hole and never fell out of the lead the entire day. His ability to put the tournament, and therefore the Cup, away on the 71st hole says a lot about his game.
The approach had just missed short and was sitting up quite well for his chip. From 27 feet, not even Snedeker was thinking he was going to hole it as he elected to leave the flag in the hole. A clutch shot for a guy who has come close to breaking through on the big stage a couple times.
As 2012 draws to a close on the PGA Tour, it is once again time to reflect on what was an amazing season that saw four different golfers win major championship, showed that no lead on a Sunday was safe and may have created the long-awaited great rivalry that Tiger Woods has been looking for and seeking for a long time.
With the Ryder Cup up next for the Americans and Europeans this week at Chicago’s Medinah, it is time again to look at five things to file away from this year’s playoffs, heading into the future.
We had four weeks of high-quality golf that just finished. The players were enthused, and the crowds were into what they were seeing.
While some may think it was unfair that Rory McIlroy did not win the FedEx Cup after winning two of the playoff events, this was indeed how a playoff should be conducted. The Tour has made the correct adjustment of making the top five golfers going the finals an automatic FedEx Cup champion with a win at the Tour Championship.
Snedeker came very close to winning the Barclays and was consistent enough the rest of the way that he gave himself the chance to win as the No. 5 seed.
Playoffs are not supposed to determine the best player or team of the year, they are designed to determine the best survivor at the moment. Snedeker could have folded after dropping his tee shot in the water on six and missing an easy putt for bogey, but he did not.
He took full advantage of the opportunity he was in and finished the deal.
There was nothing easy about this classic design.
The PGA Tour has found a winner here with a course that actually penalized you for missing the fairway—that is if you could actually hit the fairway. With fairways being as narrow as you will ever see on tour and greens that were lightning fast, the course played fair for short and longer hitters alike.
The Bermuda grass rough was the star. Although only a couple inches in length, it was thick and lush and very hard to get a ball to stop on the greens, provided you could actually get the ball on the green from the rough.
Since the greens were redone after 2007, the successful player here will fully have to think his way around the course in order to score. That becomes increasingly harder to do as the pressure to win grows.
All the courses used in the playoffs this year were good courses, but East Lake was the best at examining the player’s skills.
If only they would finish this event on a Saturday so people watch.
Four wins including a major and two wins in the playoffs should secure Rory McIlroy the Player of the Year Award.
He did not have the goods this week, but the last six weeks should give rest to any doubts about whether last summer’s romp at the U.S. Open at Congressional was a fluke.
There is no question that McIlroy is the best in the game right now and for the foreseeable future, but he has not reached the exalted status of Tiger Woods circa 2000 yet.
The kid from Northern Ireland is the best player since Woods, but there are some holes in his game he needs to fix in the offseason in order to attempt making that kind of run. McIlroy has improved his putting greatly over the last year and can sky a ball in the air better than anybody, but he cannot make a decent chip shot to save his life.
When he is on—such as his run at the PGA Championship this year—he can afford to chunk a chip or two, but it really proved to be his undoing this week.
He is young and will experiment on the course with different shots until he can be fully comfortable with his game. That being said, however, he still has to put himself into a position from off the green where he has the best chance to one putt.
He has a wonderful short game from 20 yards away, but his chips from right around the green are not consistently good, and he is putting himself in situations where he is forced to two-putt instead. A couple lost shots on a weekend can make the difference from getting a win to making the top 10 in a hurry.
Outside of that, he is the leader of this wonderful generation of golfers under 30 that can play and play well. The future of the game is in exceedingly good hands.
You get the sense that he relishes his playing with McIlroy.
They played five times together in this stretch, and Tiger won four of the five.
Then, you get into rounds like Friday and Sunday, and they can make your head scratch with the lack of consistency.
Going into 2013, Tiger has put himself in a better position to get back into the winner’s column in a major. He should be primed for Augusta.
The other majors, on the other hand, may not set up so well.
Merion, home of next year’s U.S. Open, is a pure precision course and extremely short. Tiger played Muirfield well when the Open Championship was last there in 2002, save for a highly wind-aided 81 in the third round. Woods also struggled at Oak Hill in 2003, the last time the PGA was held there, finishing tied for 29th at 12-over par.
That all aside, Tiger has had a very good year and has made the adjustment from being a power player to more of a finesse player very well—certainly better than Phil Mickelson.
While never the most accurate driver on the planet, he has to take the pressure off the rest of his game and try to be as accurate as he can. He looks rejuvenated, and that is a good thing for the game.
Do not be surprised if Snedeker breaks through with his first major next year.
One of the things that seemed so striking is that the greens at East Lake almost behaved like the greens at Augusta. There were more than a handful of holes with monster breaks in the putts, and the speeds were incredible as the greens dried out after rain earlier in the week.
Snedeker contended at a Masters and at the Open Championship this year after putting lights out in the second round.
The toughest step for a golfer in getting to that next level is breaking through for that first win. With the difficulty of the course and the quality of the field, this had all the feel of a major, and Snedeker stepped up to the occasion and delivered.
One of the things lost in the ease of how Tiger and McIIroy won majors so early on in their careers is that you really need experience in being consistent in majors.
A couple years removed from his first chance at Augusta, Snedeker now has the knowledge of how to play the four different kinds of golf at each major plus the experience of winning a high-pressure tournament.
That and a Metrocard ticket can get you a ride on the subway, but Snedeker’s win really should not have been all that big of a surprise, and he certainly can build on what he learned here at East Lake and become the first FedEx Cup winner to actually return the next year and defend at East Lake.