Beaufort News

Snedeker sneaks past everyone, wins Heritage in playoff

Brandt Snedeker looks skyward after winning the Heritage on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Brandt Snedeker looks skyward after winning the Heritage on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links. Jay Karr -- The Island Packet

Brandt Snedeker never complained about having to wait on his friend Boo Weekley. He understood the process. He wanted to be a part of it.

Four years ago, Snedeker patiently waited in the Heritage media room as Weekley took his seat for a press conference wearing the tartan jacket he earned as the 2007 Heritage champion.

Snedeker and Weekley were scheduled to take a private plane to a charity event, a flight that was delayed by a group of reporters enthralled with Weekley's thick country accent and eccentric personality.

On Sunday, Snedeker stole his friend's coveted seat.

Snedeker completed an improbable six-shot comeback in the final round and won the 43rd annual Heritage in a three-hole playoff with Luke Donald, who narrowly missed a chip-in to save par on No. 18 and force a fourth playoff hole.

Snedeker shot a blistering 7-under 64 to finish 12 under at Harbour Town Golf Links. Bishopville native Tommy Gainey finished third at 11 under, and Tim Herron and Ricky Barnes were two shots back in a tie for fourth.

"It's funny how things work out," Snedeker said. "To be sitting (there) waiting on Boo to go get on a flight, and now to be on this end of it, it's pretty cool."

He seemed an unlikely candidate to take his seat behind the microphone.

Snedeker began Sunday's final round in a tie for 17th place, six shots behind leader Luke Donald and five behind defending champion Jim Furyk.

With five birdies in the first seven holes, he vaulted up the leaderboard and cut his deficit to one stroke by the time Donald and Furyk, the day's final pairing, began their rounds. The former Vanderbilt golfer earned his first share of the lead with a birdie on No. 9, though with just nine holes left to play, completing the comeback seemed doubtful. He twice gave strokes back on the back nine with bogeys at the par-4 13th and 16th holes, but he rebounded each time, including a birdie on No. 18 to enter the clubhouse as the solo leader at 12 under.

Still, Snedeker was skeptical. Twenty golfers remained on the course after he recorded the lowest finish by a winner in Heritage history. Stewart Cink in 2004 and Davis Love III in 2003 also finished with 64s.

"I was more worried about how I was going to get to New Orleans on Monday than I was with what this round entailed," Snedeker admitted.

It took two hours -- "the longest two hours of my life," Snedeker said -- for the final 10 pairings to complete their rounds.

Donald forced the playoff with an up-and-down on No. 18 to save par and avoid his first bogey on the back-nine.

Despite the two-hour break, Snedeker came out firing in the playoff, with Donald matching him shot for shot. Both players birdied the first playoff hole, No. 18, with accurate approach shots to set up birdie putts. The duo followed with pars at the par-3 No. 17, including a save for Donald after he hit his tee shot into the front bunker.

They returned to 18 for the third playoff hole, where Donald again found himself in the bunker on his approach. This time he wasn't so fortunate. With a buried lie, he wasn't able to keep his sand shot on the green.

Meanwhile, Snedeker tapped in for par, and he clinched his first PGA Tour win since his rookie year in 2007 when Donald's ensuing chip from the fringe lipped out of the hole.

"To win like that was kind of out of nowhere," Snedeker said.

Snedeker captured an opportunity he never thought he would have, and Donald missed out on one he may never have again.

Donald entered the week knowing he would take over the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with a victory, and he admitted to occasionally thinking about that possibility during Sunday's round. Instead, Lee Westwood moved to No. 1 following his win across the globe at the Indonesian Masters.

"It's hard to put that out of your mind," Donald said. "It was going to be big rewards if I won."

Several had the opportunity to win the $1.026 million first prize. If Sunday turns out to be the final round in Heritage history, the tournament certainly went out on a memorable note.

The final-round leaderboard shifted more times than the wind on the scenic 18th. In the early afternoon, four players shared the lead, making the playoff appear inevitable.

Suddenly, one by one, they began to fall on the back nine with Snedeker watching from the clubhouse.

Furyk, the tournament's defending champion, was in the hunt for most of the afternoon, but he double-bogeyed two of the last four holes to finish 5 under, tied for 21st.

Barnes often held the lead -- once outright after a birdie on No. 5 -- and stayed within one shot of it through 14 holes. Like Furyk, his round turned south on the par-5 15th, where he bogeyed to fall out of contention. He finished tied for fourth, his second consecutive top-five finish at the Heritage.

Gainey had perhaps the best opportunity to join the playoff after firing his third consecutive round in the 60s, but he needed one shot better Sunday. That nearly came on 18 -- Gainey missed a 15-foot birdie putt to tie Snedeker for the lead. He tapped in for par, and left the course with a bow to the Heritage crowd.

"I'm pretty happy, but still disappointed," Gainey said. "But you know, what can you do? I just keep putting myself in position and sooner or later, I'm going to knock that door down."

It finally came down for Snedeker, who remarked that he has played the most consistent golf of his career over the past three months. The Heritage provided the fifth top-10 finish of the year, moving him to second place in the FedExCup standings.

As he sat down for his post-round press conference Sunday, he began smiling before questions were even asked, a grin he kept as he spoke. He was smiling even more as he responded to the last.

"There are two jackets I wanted to earn in my lifetime -- a green jacket and a plaid jacket," Snedeker said. "I've got one."