To say a win from Brandt Snedeker at the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was improbable would be the understatement of this young season.
Why? Because momentum isn’t always translatable, even for a golfer as terrific as Snedeker—last year’s FedEx Cup winner and the hottest player on tour this season with a T3 and pair of back-to-back runner-up finishes to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
It almost felt natural to assume that as great as Snedeker had played these past few weeks, there was no way he’d match his sensational play this week at Pebble.
Well, you know what they say about assumptions.
Snedeker dismantled the field this week with four consecutive rounds in 60s, punctuated by a sizzling 65 in Sunday’s final round. As Norm MacDonald tweeted:
2 weeks ago second to Tiger, last week second to Phil, and this week Brandt Snedeker is second to none.
Let's take a look at Snedeker's special victory, as well as those competitors who both thrived and underwhelmed at Pebble Beach.
On the final day of a PGA Tour event, the leader typically plays a bit more conservatively. The mindset is basically, "don’t mess with a good thing."
Brandt Snedeker entered Sunday with a lead, but was anything but conservative.
He looked dialed into his aggressive game plan like a pitcher who knows every hitter’s weakness. Rounds of 66-68-68-65 earned Snedeker his sixth PGA Tour win of his career.
2012 was Snedeker’s best season yet—a pair of victories, seven top 10s and a couple of solid finishes in the majors. But if we thought that was a strong year, perhaps 2013 will be even more successful now that he’s already earned a T3, two T2s and a victory.
His efficiency from tee to green is certainly impressive, but his motivation and resilience is more remarkable than anything else. He's competed week in and week out since mid-January and has absolutely thrived.
Snedeker believes he belongs in the conversation with the world's elite players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, and based off of his incredible start to this season, he's leading the pack.
Phil Mickelson was on everybody’s radar at Pebble Beach after his stunning performance last week in Phoenix, where he nearly broke the all-time record for lowest total score over four rounds. He also won this same event last year, so a strong finish seemed imminent.
But a battle with his irons kept Mickelson from creating viable birdie opportunities and led to a middle-of-the-pack finish (T60).
Although he started strong with a three-under par 69, he struggled over the next few rounds, never establishing enough rhythm to make a significant leap into contention.
Lefty disappointed this week, and it does not bode well for the season considering that after his early win last year, he not only didn’t win again, but also rarely got into contention.
He’ll need to sweep this week under the rug and begin preparation for the next big tournament, the Honda Classic at the end of February.
A 66 in Sunday’s final round earned the relatively unknown Chris Kirk a solo second-place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Kirk absolutely shone on one of the world's toughest and most historic golf courses. His sensational iron play was a difference-maker this week. He hit more than 80 percent of the greens in regulation, setting up solid birdie opportunities throughout his four rounds.
Kirk’s putting also distinguished him this week and has been the key to the best start of his young career. He currently ranks second in strokes gained-putting on tour, and that consistency on the greens has propelled him to terrific finishes at the Sony Open (T5), the Waste Management Phoenix Open (T24) and now at Pebble (2).
A missed cut was the last thing anyone expected from DJ, including me.
Dustin Johnson has played remarkably well at Pebble Beach in his career, winning this event twice (2009, 2010) and finishing in the top 10 in six career starts (2008, 2012), including his T8 at the US Open in 2010.
He was also a serious contender coming into this week because Johnson has become a Matt Kuchar-esque player—reliable for a top 10 finish no matter who's in the field or what course they're playing.
Johnson remains one of golf's most versatile and accomplished young players, but this week was a missed opportunity.
James Hahn was known more for his celebratory "Gangnam Style" dance at the Phoenix Open than any of his golf accolades.
One week later, Hahn is a rising star in golf, earning his second top 10 finish on the PGA Tour with a T3 finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Hahn never took his foot off the pedal, staying aggressive and using his massive length off the tee (averaging 296 yards, 38th on tour) to take advantage of Pebble's short length. Four consecutive rounds under par (71-65-66-70) on this difficult of a course and in this stacked field is a huge confidence boost for the 31-year-old Bay Area native.
Just a rookie on tour, Hahn has quickly found his rhythm with the pros and now made four consecutive cuts. So far this season, he ranks in the top 40 in scoring average on tour (70.1). Don't be surprised if Hahn's name continues to climb the leaderboards this season.
This 23-year-old stunned the golf world with a strong T3 finish in his first professional tournament at the Sony Open earlier this season. He turned heads again on the opening day of this week's event when he shot an impressive seven-under par, 65.
Problem was he couldn’t sustain his strong start.
After his 65 on Thursday, Langley shot 77-69-75, leading to a T62 finish. Consistency is a serious challenge in golf, especially because course conditions vary week to week. In this tournament specifically, players were alternating between three different courses over three days, so it was a brutal test of adapting day to day.
Langley will continue to develop and needs to learn how important it is to capitalize after starting well like he did this week. Since the T3 at the Sony, Langley’s now missed two cuts and finished T62. As of now, he’s looking like a one-hit wonder.
Jason Day found his stride this week at Pebble Beach, where he earned a T6 finish for his second top 10 of the season.
From tee to green, Day was a blueprint of consistency. He found the fairway nearly 60 percent of the time off the tee and was bulletproof with his irons, hitting 95 percent of the greens in regulation. Day's specialty has always been on the greens, so when the rest of the pieces of his game come together, he's a serious contender.
Day was one of 2011's biggest surprises and one of 2012's biggest upsets. Two years ago, he earned an impressive pair of second-place finishes, first at the Masters and then again at the US Open. That same year, he had eight other top 10 finishes and made 18 cuts in 21 events.
Oh, and by the way, he was just 23 years old at the time.
Unfortunately for Day, 2012 was a different story. Between recovering from injury and entering fatherhood, he struggled to find a rhythm and didn't look like the same player. Just four top 10s in 13 events was not up to par for one of golf's up-and-coming stars.
This year, though, Day looks to have regained his form. He's a fearless player, aggressive from start to finish. Day is a terrific scorer because he is so deadly with the flashstick.
Another week, another disappointment for Camilo Villegas, who missed his second cut of the season at Pebble Beach.
What’s most frustrating for the young Colombian is how well he began the event. Villegas fired a five-under par 67 and was in contention. The key would be riding the momentum of that strong showing into his next few rounds.
However, it wasn’t to be, as Villegas posted 75-72 over the next two rounds.
Putting is the core problem in Villegas’ game. He ranks 164th in strokes gained-putting on tour, which, if you ask any professional, is the type of stat that will immediately wreck a player’s chances. His upward battle begins with the flatstick.