By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
HONOLULU (AP) — Brandt Snedeker turned 41 last month, not so old that he can’t stay up on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the start of a new year. And it was a calendar page worth turning.
“Happy to have that ball dropped,” Snedeker said.
His golf hasn’t lived up to his standards since he put together a pair of top 10s in the PGA Tour playoffs in 2019 to reach the Tour championship for the seventh time, one of those that culminated in a FedEx Cup title in 2012.
More disturbing than his performance was losing both parents about eight months apart.
His mother, Candice, died of a heart attack aged 73 in early October 2020 while Snedeker was at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Given the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the only funeral service for her was private with her immediate family.
He said his father, Larry, a lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee, who taught his two sons how to play golf and how to play it without delay, was diagnosed with cancer while on vacation that year. He died in early June.
“It’s been a long year. It’s been a tough year,” Snedeker said at the Sony Open, where he entered the weekend tied for fifth, six shots off the lead. every minute I had with him, knowing it wasn’t going to be long. It wears you out. It’s hard to concentrate, hard to concentrate, hard to motivate yourself.
“You live out of a suitcase and think about all kinds of things,” he said. “It was a tough year for me and my brother. But we got through it. I’m ready to start fresh.
His parents had moved to Gulf Shores, Alabama in retirement. Snedeker said he found himself winning one last time while he still had his dad, and that only made things harder. He started 2021 missing the cut five times in seven tournaments.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well because I knew he didn’t have long,” he said. “And then I didn’t play well as well.”
A week after his father’s death, Snedeker missed US Open qualifying, the first time he was ineligible for his National Open since 2006, the year before his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
He managed to qualify for the PGA Tour playoffs for the 15th straight year, but not by much, and he lasted only one postseason event. And then he started a new season by missing four cuts in six starts.
So there was something symbolic about moving to 2022 and what he hopes will be a fresh start.
“I tried to keep my mind busy (while playing), which probably wasn’t the smartest thing in the world,” Snedeker said. “I didn’t know how else to do it.”
The weather was reasonable enough in Tennessee after Christmas for training, then he went to Arizona for a few days before starting the New Year in Hawaii.
Snedeker started with a 66, and followed it up with four birdies and an eagle in his round of 65 on Friday, giving him hope for the weekend.
Snedeker looked like his old self at times, walking as fast as he spoke, putting putts with a stroke that looked confident and led him to nine PGA Tour wins. The joy of golf has not left him, even after taking so much from the course.
“I’m very excited to start this year because I played so badly last year,” he said. “I still love what I do. I love being here. I love the West Coast because I’ve always had great success here.
Two of his victories are at Torrey Pines, two others at Pebble Beach.
“Hopefully I can build on that and see positive things in the future,” he said.
The road may seem long. Snedeker fell to world No. 199. He is not eligible for any of the majors this year. The only one he played last year was the British Open, and only because it was canceled by the pandemic in 2020 and the criteria was based on the previous year.
“I know I can do it,” he said. “Just a matter of making sure the body understands how to do it again and really trying to enjoy my time here. You go through some slumps here, don’t play as well, and you can really fight. I really try to enjoy every moment. That’s how lucky I am. I can do this for a living.
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