by Jeff Skinner
This was supposed to be Luke Donald’s show today. The Heritage was to be his crowning moment. He was going to birdie his way to a win and claim the top spot in the World Golf Rankings. For awhile it looked like it might just happen but Luke’s party was crashed by an uninvited Brandt Snedeker who started the day six strokes behind Donald. Snedeker opened the front nine with a sizzling six birdie barrage and soon found himself in the middle of the festivities.
Snedeker managed to birdie the eighteenth hole to get to -12 and then had to wait nearly two hours to see if Donald or anyone else could better that. Tommy Gainey had a chance to tie him but his birdie putt on eighteen slid by. Donald came down the stretch at -12 and needed a birdie to win the tournament. He chunked his approach into eighteen but was able to get it up and down from the bunker to salvage par and meet Snedeker in a sudden death playoff.
The first playoff hole on eighteen was a classic match. Both players hit good tee balls and then excellent approaches leaving birdie putts for both. Donald was first up and gave an exuberant fist pump when his putt fell. Snedeker, showing a tenacity that belies his boyish looks, did the same as he poured his birdie putt in on top of Donald’s and the two were off to seventeen to continue the playoff.
Donald’s tee shot on seventeen found the front bunker and it was only due to his excellent short game that he was able to par the hole, tie Snedeker and force the playoff back to eighteen. Again they both hit excellent tee shots but once again Donald’s iron play failed him. He slightly mishit his approach and found a buried lie in the front bunker. Snedeker hit safely to the green and had a 15 foot putt to win. Donald’s explosion shot rolled past the pin and settled in the rough. Snedeker snuggled his first putt to tap in range, took his par and Donald was left with a must make chip from just off the green. With his renowned short game, the shot looked makeable and he almost pulled it off. His chip was dead on but a hair too strong, hit the back of the cup and rolled away. Donald had squandered his chance at the win and Snedeker had a career resurrecting second PGA Tour win.
Donald is in the middle of an outstanding season. There are legitimate reasons he would have earned the number one spot in the world rankings. In his last five PGA outings he has failed to finish out of the top ten and claimed a win at The Match Play Championship. Snedeker is in the midst of his own career rebirth. After three seasons of average play and only being able to manage a pair of T2’s as his best finishes, this season he has played inspired golf. He has five top tens already this year and this win puts him over the two million dollar mark. He has already earned more in this abbreviated season than he had earned in any of his entire previous three seasons.
Snedeker said afterward that he went into the final round with no expectations and only wanted to shoot a good round. Well, mission accomplished, a 64 on the final day on a tough course certainly qualifies as a good round. At the same time he got his career back on track and made himself relevant on tour once again.