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 this was a calendar page worth turning.
“Happy to have that ball drop,” Snedeker said.
His golf has not been up to his standards since he put together a pair of top 10s during the PGA Tour's postseason in 2019 to reach the Tour Championship for the seventh time, one of those resulting in a FedEx Cup title in 2012.
More troubling than his performance was losing both parents about eight months apart.
His mother, Candice, died of a heart attack at age 73 in early October 2020 while Snedeker was at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Given the restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the only funeral service for her was private with immediate family.
He said his father, Larry, an attorney in Nashville, Tennessee, who taught his two sons to play golf and play it without delay, was diagnosed with cancer over the holidays that year. He died in early June.
“It was a long year. It was a tough year,” Snedeker said at the Sony Open, where he went into the weekend in a tie for fifth, six shots out of the lead. "I spent every minute I had with him, knowing it wasn't going to be long. It just wears you down. It's tough to focus, tough to concentrate, tough to get motivated.
“You're living out of a suitcase and thinking of all kinds of stuff,” he said. “It was a tough year on me and my brother. But we got through it. I'm ready to start fresh.”
His parents had moved to Gulf Shores, Alabama, upon retirement. Snedeker said he found himself grinding to win one last time while he still had his father, and that only made it tougher. He began 2021 by 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 on top of it.”
A week after his father died, Snedeker missed out on U.S. Open qualifying, the first time he wasn't eligible for his national Open since 2006, the year before his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
He managed to make it to the PGA Tour playoffs for the 15th consecutive year, but not by much, and he only lasted one postseason event. And then he started a new season by missing four cuts in six starts.
So there was something symbolic about moving on to 2022 and what he hopes is a fresh start.
“I tried to keep my mind occupied (by playing), which probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world,” Snedeker said. “I didn't know how else to deal with it."
The weather was reasonable enough in Tennessee after Christmas to practice, and then he went out to Arizona for a few days before starting the new year in Hawaii.
Snedeker opened with a 66, and followed with four birdies and an eagle in his round of 65 on Friday, leaving him hope going into the weekend.
Snedeker looked like his old self at times, walking as briskly as he speaks, popping putts with a stroke that looked confident and carried him to nine PGA Tour victories. The joy of golf hasn't left him, even after having so much taken away from him off the course.
“I'm very excited to start this year because I played so bad last year,” he said. “I still love what I do. I love being out here. I love the West Coast because I've always had good success out here.”
Two of his victories are at Torrey Pines, two more at Pebble Beach.
“Hopefully, I can build on this and see some positive stuff going forward,” he said.
The road can seem long. Snedeker has dropped to No. 199 in the world. 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 criteria was based on the year before.
“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 out here. You go through some slumps out here, not playing as well, and you can really beat yourself up. I’m really trying to enjoy every moment. That’s how lucky I am. I get to do this for a living.”
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