Will 2014 Be an Up or Down Year for Brandt Snedeker?

Mike DudurichContributor IFebruary 4, 2014

Is there a repeat performance for Brandt Snedeker at Pebble Beach this week?
Is there a repeat performance for Brandt Snedeker at Pebble Beach this week?Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Brandt Snedeker never has been and never will be Tiger Woods.

His golf game will never match that of Woods' because while Woods powers the ball around the golf course, Snedeker is a much shorter hitter but one of the best putters in the game. He's been fourth and 12th in putting in 2013 and 2012, respectively. But he's never been better than 110th in driving distance in his career.

And Snedeker will never be confused with Woods in terms of what kind of person he is. While Woods is aloof and very protective of his space and his emotions, anybody who watches Snedeker is always very aware of what's going on in his world.

Right now, things are going very well in his world, thank you very much. The 33-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn., has won five times in the last three years, he's made over $24 million and is always in the conversation when the best players in the game are discussed.

Nobody, even the world's No. 1 player, plays well all the time and even though Snedeker has had three big years, they've not been without down times. He was on an all-world pace last year, finishing first, a pair of seconds and a third in his first five starts.

Brandt Snedeker likes putting on the greens at the three courses he'll play this week.
Brandt Snedeker likes putting on the greens at the three courses he'll play this week.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

He didn't miss fairways, greens or putts and was on pace to a one-of-a-kind season when an old problem struck. He's had problems occasionally with his ribs, thanks to a condition known as low bone turnover.

He had to miss a month after winning at Pebble Beach last year and he lost some of that early momentum, but he still managed to get it going and finish with an outstanding season. Snedeker now injects medication into his stomach to increase his bone mass.

Snedeker hasn't started firing on all cylinders yet in 2014, but there isn't any reason to believe he's not going to return to that guy who was the hottest player in the world the first month-and-a-half of the season in 2013.

Snedeker has yet to win a major title, although he did have three top-20 finishes last year. His best was a tie for sixth at Augusta National after being tied for the lead after 54 holes. And golf fans certainly remember him contending in the 2008 Masters and not winning, causing a torrent of tears afterward.

He's keenly aware of the fact that 12 of the last 15 majors have been won by first-timers, including guys like Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner. And Snedeker is in their age group, too. Scott and Rose are 33, Dufner 36.

"Those are three guys in my age bracket," Snedeker said in a USA Today story by Steve DeMeglio. "They had abundant experience on the PGA Tour, they had gone through a lot of trials in life that strengthened them and they finally broke through. That gives us all hope – that we can do the same thing. If you do the right stuff, stay on the right path, we will break through."

His progression into what is generally regarded as a golfer's prime years has been one of golf's feel-good stories, especially since he's had surgery on both hips to hopefully correct a degenerative problem. And then he had an accident on a Segway and suffered a minor tear in his ACL and cracked a tibia at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shaghai last year.

But the good news for Snedeker and his fans is he appears to be as healthy as he has been in years. He's defending his title at AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and this would be a great place for him to jump-start his season.

Sure, he won Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup in 2012, taking home $11 million-plus. But he knows what it's like getting close in a major championship and is frustrated by the fact he doesn't have some of that major hardware.

But because of his putting prowess and his seeming comfort on that devilish putting surfaces at Augusta National Golf Club, he seems a prime candidate to wear a green jacket. And because he's so accurate off the tee, a U.S. Open like this year's at Pinehurst No. 2 would seem to be in his wheelhouse as well.

On the subject of winning that major, he told Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle, "It's very important to me. That's how you define your career. You want to have one of those majors in your trophy case before your career is said and done."

Brandt Snedeker is an easy guy to root for, and I'm thinking it's going to be a great year to be a Brandt Snedeker fan.