The Brandt Snedeker story: One weekend reaps one windfall

"High five for the man who just broke the bank!" (AP photo by John Bazemore)

"How about a high five for the man who just broke the bank?" (AP photo by John Bazemore)

The Tour Championship isn’t considered one of golf’s majors — or even the figurative fifth Beatle, the Players Championship having laid claim to that designation — but this autumn event has risen above niche status. It’s golf for those who don’t much care for golf. It’s golf on (medicinally prescribed) steroids. It’s golf with huge names and big money and fabulous prizes.

Those who do care for golf might cringe at the description, but the Tour Championship is golf as done by NASCAR. Which is no accident, seeing as how the season-ending Chase was the figure-it-out-on-the-fly model for this whole FedEx Cup deal. (”Deal,” as we know,  being the catch-all term favored by those on the stock-car circuit.) Only the PGA might just have out-NASCAR’ed NASCAR.

On Sunday at East Lake, Brandt Snedeker won himself a tournament — something he’d done only three times on tour — and the $1.4 million purse plus the $10 million that comes with claiming the FedEx Cup meant that in one day he’d come close to matching the money won in his six years of PGA membership. “Crazy talk,” Snedeker said. “Like winning the lottery.”

Then: “I have no clue what to with [the money] — except hold on to it, take care of it and help people with it … It’s unbelievable to think I’ll be financially set for a long time. I do not need $11 million. As long as I’m not an idiot, I should be fine.”

Of all the things Snedeker isn’t, an idiot would seem chief among them. He grew up on a Missouri golf course — his grandmother managed the place — and went to school at Vanderbilt. (Go ahead and say it, Bulldog fans: At least one Vandy product had a good weekend in Georgia.) At 31, he considered himself one of the better golfers in the world, not that the world at large knew much about him.

After a bad week at the PGA Championship last month, he actually had his numbers guy — yes, golfers have numbers guys — and the data, Snedeker said, indicated “that if you put my stats up against everybody I was one of the top five players on the PGA tour.” As fate would have it, entering the Tour Championship ranked No. 5 in the FedEx standings made Snedeker the lowest-rated man capable of assuring himself of the FedEx Cup and the $11.4 million simply by winning the tournament.

Not that him winning the tournament was ever a given. He was tied for the lead after three rounds, and all of his previous tour victories had been of the comeback kind. “I’m sure 90 percent of you didn’t pick me to win,” Snedeker told the assembled media, “because I’ve never done it. I proved a lot of people wrong.”

And what did the $11.4 million man learn about himself Sunday on his road to riches? “That I’m a lot better under pressure than I give myself credit for.”

This bit of self-discovery was likewise put to the test. Snedeker never fell out of the lead, but twice he was tied. (Not that he knew it. He claimed he never looks at a scoreboard.) When, after his drive on the par-5 No. 15, he first found himself fantasizing about the $11.4 million, he said, “I almost hit myself in the face” to break the mood. Before his approach on the 18th hole, he did it again. “And I hit an awful shot. Shows what [thinking about money] does for you.”

In the end, the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup proved the oldest saw in golf. Snedeker isn’t a big hitter, but he’s aces around the green. Drive for show, putt for dough. In this case, $11.4 mil.

This was the sixth year of the PGA tour’s version of the postseason, and the organization keeps tweaking the format. (Again, just like NASCAR.) When it was mentioned that Snedeker won one of the FedEx Cup’s four playoff events to Rory McIlroy’s two but had claimed the crystal trophy and the (much) bigger monetary prize, the newly minted multimillionaire said: “Life is all about timing.”

He tried to stay deadpan after that imparting bit of wisdom/wit, but he couldn’t quite manage it. On this September Sunday, Brandt Snedeker had won a golf tournament and changed his life, which isn’t to suggest he’d gotten lucky. “This is what you work your whole life for, all those balls you hit,” he said.

And that was a nice image to end a nice event. In a field of household names, one of the lesser lights had his moment. “I played against the beat players in the world this weekend over 72 holes,” Snedeker said, “and I beat them.”

He has the fortune, if not quite the fame, to prove it.

By Mark Bradley

18 comments Add your comment

felix the cat

September 23rd, 2012
8:28 pm

Congrats Brandt First on this day and in this column

Ted Striker

September 23rd, 2012
8:41 pm

Good column. Thanks!

harold

September 23rd, 2012
9:01 pm

NASHVILLE BOY!

MeinAcworth

September 23rd, 2012
9:07 pm

Great column and great win for the Nashville boy who had it when it counted around the greens. Some disappointments this week from the big hitters but it goes to prove that a golfer with guts can still win a big one like Gary Player used too.

Mark Bradley

September 23rd, 2012
9:33 pm

Kudos, Felix.

Gary

September 23rd, 2012
10:01 pm

Mark you make good points about the tournament’s image. I think it’s all for the best and felt a good vibe out there. Now: get rid of the rough and see how low they can go! Duh!

juice sourcer

September 23rd, 2012
10:09 pm

I watched some of the final round today and it was totally boring. Its a non event. Amazing that over 11 million was paid out to this guy. Ridiculous money.
.

SportsTopFan

September 23rd, 2012
10:23 pm

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N $$$ to Brandt Snedeker on winning the Tour Championship at East Lake.

Sports Top Fan and golf fans worldwide enjoyed watching you play and win the FedEx Cup !!!

Eleven million four hundred thousand ($11,400,000) is a HUGE payday.

SportsTopFan@Yahoo.com

Snoozer

September 23rd, 2012
10:54 pm

Mark- it’s evident from the lack of comments here that the Tour Championship carries far less clout and interest than you surmise. The FedEx cup format is like if the Superbowl counted as just another game and the NFL championship goes to the team with the most regular season wins. Simply ridiculous given a sport that could use more excitement.

atlantadude

September 23rd, 2012
11:17 pm

Congratulations Mr. Snedeker. Good to see such a nice guy win. Wasn’t mentioned in this column I don’t think but he grew up in Nashville, Tn and continues to live there. Great win.

WTF

September 24th, 2012
7:13 am

Guess you’d have to actually watch a NASCAR race to get the comparisons (and I haven’t), but the comparisons must be strained. Of course, there would have to be something of a creative narrative scheme to get to the actual facts of the story.
Just seems all these writers keep striving to be Bisher – and failing. He would have made you feel the wind in the players’ faces, feel the trickle of sweat running down their necks, experience, even at second or third-hand, the trembling feeling in their knees standing over a 6 ft. put to save par on the 18th green.
MB gives us NASCAR.
Shame, isn’t it?

JF McNamara

September 24th, 2012
7:34 am

Congrats to Snedeker for winning, but only Tiger or Rory should have been able to win. They were clearly the best two players all year. They had 3 and 4 wins respectively. They need to go back and do more tweaking.

Buckeye

September 24th, 2012
8:04 am

$20 says we won’t be reading about Sneds filing bankruptcy in 10 years.

Shug

September 24th, 2012
8:09 am

This guy has all the makings of being the next Bill Haas.

jarvis

September 24th, 2012
11:08 am

Where’s the Heat Check?

jarvis

September 24th, 2012
11:12 am

No mention of Snedeker’s caddy, Scott Vail? He’s the son of Atlanta Flames 1975 ROY and all-time leading scorer Eric “Big Train” Vail.

You constantly disappoint Bradley.

Jeanette

September 24th, 2012
12:12 pm

I think brant is an awesome guy And so happy that he won. Congrats to him and family. Dont ever change. You seem like a humble guy. I love it…

Zombiewoof

September 24th, 2012
12:48 pm

Congrats to Brant on a great win! Got to follow him on Saturday and converse with his father, Larry, who is a super nice guy. One could see that Brant had the goods with the way he was heating up with the flat stick on moving day..I’m just hoping that continues this week at the Ryder Cup.

Regarding the format of the FedEx, I’m a fan. I really dig the excitement of everyone in the field having a chance to win it all in the last event. No one wants to change the NFL playoff format b/c the Giants won the super bowl as a 9-6 regular season team. Same concept. I don’t dispute that Rory has been the best player this year (although how quickly we forget his massive summer slump when he missed 4 of 6 cuts including the US Open), and for that he will win player of the year honors. But Brant was the best player this week, when it most mattered in regards to the $11M payday. Kudos Brant!!