Things going well for defending RBC Heritage champ Brandt Snedeker

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comApril 11, 2012 

Brandt Snedeker knows comebacks.

There was a time he struggled to finish practice or workouts without pain in his hips, the result of a degenerative condition that plagued Snedeker from birth. He finally took steps to correct the problem, undegoing surgery on his right hip in October 2010. He repaired the left hip this past fall.

Now fully recovered and pain-free in both hips, Snedeker has already won in 2012 as he prepares to defend his Heritage title at Harbour Town Golf Links.

The 31-year-old former Vanderbilt standout, who turned professional in 2004, credits the end of his discomfort and the start of family life for the best golf of his career. Snedeker and his wife, Mandy, welcomed their first child -- daughter, Lily -- a month before his victory at Harbour Town.

"It gives me some relief and comfort when I come home and know that I'm not living and dying by every shot like I used to," Snedeker said. "It's making me play a lot better."

His recipe also includes rallying from a deficit. In each of his three PGA Tour victories, he made up at least five shots during the final round.

He shot 64 the final day of the 2011 Heritage to force a playoff with Luke Donald. He fired 67 at Torrey Pines in January to catch Kyle Stanley and win the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff. Snedeker finished 2011 with a 68.31 final-round scoring average, third best on Tour.

The spark begins with Snedeker's putter, said Sea Island, Ga., professional Todd Anderson, Snedeker's swing coach since 2005. Snedeker ranked 10th in strokes gained putting in 2011 and 10th in total putting.

"He's confident," Anderson said. "He thinks he's going to make it from everywhere, you know? Last year on Sunday, it was just one of those days."

Anderson slipped in on Saturday of the 2011 Heritage to help Snedeker after a tough ball striking day. On the range before Sunday's final round, Anderson saw good things.

And Snedeker started fast.

Anderson said he has worked with Snedeker on some of the same swing thoughts since the pair started, to stabilize the lower body, avoid becoming too upright on the backswing and to maintain his height on the downswing -- head up and upper body tall so that the arms are free to swing through the ball.

Anderson said the pair develops a plan based on what area of Snedeker's game needs work. Snedeker said his recent success came, in part, by not trying to tinker too much.

"I think a lot of it is belief in what I'm doing, confidence in myself, realizing that I don't have to make any big changes to play my best golf," Snedeker said.

No big changes, except in the hips.

Snedeker's problems developed from hips ill-fitted from birth. He chose Dr. Marc Philippon, a hip specialist who practices at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. The surgeries shaved away bone and repaired labrums.

He required six weeks on crutches and couldn't play golf for another two weeks after that.

Snedeker underwent five hours of therapy each day and pool sessions three times a week.

"Now, I've got no issues," Snedeker said. "I can work out, play as much as I want to without any pain. It's a huge deal."

Snedker returned to Harbour Town in February to meet with the media as defending champion of a tournment once in danger of fading from the schedule. He commended the job of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to secure RBC as the sponsor.

The Nashville native had not played particularly well at the Heritage before winning. He missed the cut the previous two years and tied for 53rd in 2008. But Snedeker received an exemption in 2005 and said he felt a connection here.

And so he keeps coming back.

"We were going to be frustrated with the Tour if something wasn't worked out, because of what it meant to us," he said. "We love coming here."

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