ALUMNI UPDATE – SNEDEKER EARNS COMEBACK WIN IN PLAYOFF AT FARMERS

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By Ryan Woodcock

For the first three weeks of the 2012 PGA TOUR season, we reported here that a former Gateway Tour Player finished runner-up in each of those first three tournaments.  Through 71 holes at Torrey Pines, it looked like we would be reporting the same thing.  That is until Kyle Stanley made an improbable triple-bogey on the par-5 18th, opening the door for former GPTer Brandt Snedeker to win with a par on the second playoff hole.

Snedeker started the round seven shots back of Stanley, and while he did make up a couple of shots during the final round, he fell four back after a bogey on the par-4 17th.  He rebounded with a birdie on 18 after hitting a spectacular wedge to about a foot, but knew he had virtually no shot to win with Stanley, playing in the final group behind Snedeker, sitting at 18 tee with a three-shot lead.

“I was just too far back, Kyle had too big a lead,” Snedeker said as he watched the final group on 18 on TV.

But just like that things changed.  Stanley’s third shot, a simple wedge from 77 yards out, spun off the green and into the water.  After his drop, he chipped to 45 feet, where he then three-putted, carding a triple-bogey 8 which resulted in a playoff with Snedeker.

Both players birdied the first playoff hole (18), then Snedeker caught a huge break on the second playoff hole (par-3 16th), when his 5-iron went long and was headed for trouble before it caught a TV tower, saving him from big trouble.  He got up and down for par, while Stanley missed a 45-footer for birdie, and missed the five-foot comebacker for par that would have extended the match.

The win was Snedeker’s third career victory, with all three victories coming after trailing by at least five shots.  Apparently Snedeker has a flair for the dramatic, and he also has a good feel for Torrey Pines – This was his third straight Top-10 at the Farmers and fourth in six starts.

“It’s just crazy,” Snedeker said.  “To get my mind around what happened the last 30 minutes is pretty hard to do right now.  My heart is out to Kyle.  I feel bad for him to have to go through this.”

Snedeker had a pretty solid week all around except for his third round.  He shot 67-64 in the first two rounds (with just three bogeys), but fell back after a disappointing 2-over 74 that included four bogeys.  While he started the final round seven back of Stanley, he saw the deficit climb to nine after Stanley opened the final round with back-to-back birdies. 

The seven-shot comeback is tied for the biggest since 2010, when Stuart Appleby made up seven shots at the Greenbrier Classic.  The last time someone had a bigger come-from-behind win was 2004, when Stewart Cink made up an eight-shot deficit at the RBC Heritage. 

“You never want to see anybody go through that,” Snedeker said.  “I don’t care who it is – not even your worst enemy on the planet.  Golf is such a funny game, and to have that kind of lead coming into the last hole and not to win is tough.  It will be a tough night for him.  But he’s an unbelievably-talented player and the sky’s the limit for him.”

“This one I kind of back into,” Snedeker added.  “You never like winning a tournament that way.  But you do like winning.”

This is a great start to the 2012 campaign, and a great way to build off of 2011, which saw him record one win, two third-place finishes and seven Top-10s on his way to finishing eighth in the 2011 FedEx Cup standings.

Along with Snedeker’s miraculous win, it was another good week for former GPT players at Torrey.  A total of 21 players made the cut, with three finishing in the Top-10 and five in the Top-15.  Martin Flores and Jimmy Walker joined Snedeker in the Top-10, both finishing T8 at 10-under par.  Flores shot rounds of 65-67-75-71 to earn his fifth career Top-10 (he had four Top-10s last year as a rookie); while Walker earned his ninth career Top-10 finish.

Bill Lunde got off to a horrible start with a first round 74 that included six bogeys, but got on track and finished 68-68-69 to finish T13, as did Bubba Watson, who shot 69-71-68-71 to finish 9-under par in his first tournament of the year.

Like we mentioned earlier, this was Snedeker’s third career win, with all three wins coming from at least five shots back.  Last year he erased a six-shot deficit and beat Luke Donald on the third playoff hole at the RBC Heritage; and he erased a five-shot deficit in 2007 at the Wyndham Championship, his first career victory on the PGA TOUR.

One other interesting stat from the week – Snedeker was even on the par-3s, 5-under on the par-4s and 12-under on the par-5s.

For complete results from the Farmers Insurance Open, CLICK HERE.

Four weeks are now in the books, and what a great four weeks it has already been for our GPT alums.  They opened with runner-up finishes in each of the first three tournaments, and then of course Snedeker’s gigantic come from behind win at Torrey.  Next up is a trip to the TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Feb. 2-5.  Can Snedeker go back-to-back?  Will we see another GPT alum in the hunt?  Check back here next week for a recap of all the action.

Good luck to all!