PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Brandt Snedeker didn’t have to take a back seat to anyone at Pebble Beach.
A runner-up to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each of the last two weeks, Snedeker finished off a record performance Sunday with a 7-under 65 for a two-shot victory over Chris Kirk in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Snedeker holed a 10-foot birdie on the 17th hole, and then tapped in for par to finish at 19-under 267. That broke the tournament record by one shot held by Mickelson (2007) and Mark O’Meara (1997), who each had a 20-under 268 when Poppy Hills was still in the rotation.
The hottest player in golf, Snedeker finally has a trophy to show for it.
“Feels great to finish one,” he said. “The last two weeks, playing great but running into two Hall of Famers, really motivated me to go out and prove that I can handle the lead.”
In five starts this year, he already had a win, two second-place finishes and a third. He never had much of a chance against Woods at Torrey Pines or Mickelson at the Phoenix Open, who each had big leads going into the final round.
Snedeker was tied with James Hahn, a 31-year-old rookie from the Bay Area, and seized control with an eagle and three birdies on the opening seven holes. Snedeker responded to his only bogey, a three-putt at No. 9, by rolling in birdie putts on the next two holes.
He took a long gaze out at the Pacific while waiting on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach, perhaps reflecting on an amazing ride over the last six months – winning the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize, his first Ryder Cup team and a blazing start to the new season.
Snedeker goes to No. 4 in the world, the highest ranking of his career and second only to Woods among Americans.
“Kind of crazy to think what’s happened,” he said.
He now heads off to a vacation on Maui before returning for the stretch run leading to the Masters. Winning a major is the next step for Snedeker, a 32-year-old from Nashville who has emerged as a veritable threat wherever he plays with a confident putting stroke and a dramatic increase in hitting fairways off the tee.
Hahn wound up with a 2-under 70 and tied for third with Jimmy Walker (66) and Kevin Stadler (65). The day wasn’t a total loss for Hahn. He previously tied for fourth at the Humana Challenge, and his tie for third gets him into Riviera next week. He hasn’t missed a cut this year and is already 11th in the FedEx Cup standings.
The only drama on a pristine day on the Monterey Peninsula came from Patrick Reed. His 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole gave him a tie for seventh with Fredrik Jacobson, and kept Jacobson from qualifying for the Match Play Championship by 0.0002 points.
The final spot in the 64-man field based on the world ranking instead goes to Shane Lowery of Ireland, who did not play this week.
The only disappointment for Snedeker was having to settle for par on the final hole, and watching his amateur, Toby Wilt, graze the edge of the cup with his final putt. That means he had to share first place in the pro-am with Michael Letzig and John Erickson. Wilt, an investor from Nashville, Tenn., endowed a golf scholarship at Vanderbilt, and Snedeker was the first recipient.
Snedeker has come a long way and might just be getting started. This was the fifth win of his career.
Mickelson, the defending champion, hit two more balls in the ocean on the 18th hole, but at least this time he didn’t slip on the rocks. He closed with a 72 and tied for 60th.
Snedeker kept to his strategy of attacking the opening seven holes, the key to scoring at Pebble Beach.
For a short time, Hahn stayed right with him.
Snedeker hit a 4-iron that caught the collar of the green and rolled to 4 feet on the par-5 second hole. Hahn followed with a high, pure shot that landed on the green and nearly hit Snedeker’s ball before stopping 6 feet away.
Hahn missed his putt. Snedeker made his. That became the difference.
Snedeker hit a chip with perfect pace from behind the third green to within inches, and what could have been a two-shot swing turned into a push when Hahn’s 5-foot birdie putt caught the right lip. Both made birdies from about 8 feet on the fourth. Snedeker went at the flag on the par-3 fifth and landed 20 feet behind the hole, while Hahn went about 10 feet deeper and caught a tough lie in the bunker, leading to bogey.
On the par-5 sixth, Snedeker again hit a beautiful approach that skirted the collar and turned hard to the left, right past the cup to about 20 feet. Hahn missed to the right and failed to get up-and-down for birdie. Snedeker two-putted for birdie, and then holed a 15-foot birdie on the next to stretch his lead.
Snedeker played those opening holes in 5 under. Hahn played them in 1 under.
From there, the FedEx Cup champion had to worry about the rest of the field. Kirk, Walker and even Retief Goosen all tried to make a run, and it looked as though Snedeker might help them out when he gunned his birdie putt past the hole and off the green at the ninth for a bogey.
Snedeker made five bogeys this week, and answered with a birdie four times. He rammed home a 25-foot birdie on the 10th, and then followed that with a 15-foot birdie on the 11th to expand his lead to four shots.
From there, it was a battle for second place – and for the final spot in the Match Play Championship. Mickelson already has said he won’t be playing in two weeks, so the top 65 are eligible.