ALUMNI UPDATE – SNEDEKER PREVAILS OVER DONALD IN THREE PLAYOFF HOLES AT THE HERITAGE

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By Ryan Woodcock

Former Gateway Pro Tour player Brandt Snedeker started the final round of The Heritage six shots back of leader Luke Donald, and was more worried about how he would get to New Orleans for the next tournament, not whether he might be involved in a playoff.  But that was before he opened with six birdies on the front nine on his way to a final-round 7-under 64, which was the low-round of the day and  a score good enough to get into a playoff with Donald.  He ended up winning the playoff on the third hole to earn his second career win on the PGA TOUR.

Snedeker was so far down the leaderboard that when the day started, the final group of Donald and Jim Furyk had just teed off after Snedeker took his first lead of the tournament after his birdie on the par-4 12th.  He closed his round with a nice birdie on 18 to take the clubhouse lead at 12-under par, but he had to nervously wait for about two hours in the clubhouse while the rest of the field finished.

“It was brutal,” he said.  “I don’t want them to do bad, but I don’t want them to do great either.”

Snedeker actually almost won in regulation after a couple of mistakes by Donald, but he converted two difficult up-and-down opportunities to save par to force the playoff with Snedeker.  The two both made birdie on the first playoff hole (playing 18 again), and then made par on the par-3 17th before Snedeker ended things with his par on the third playoff hole (18).  The win was his first taste of victory since he won the 2007 Wyndham Championship during his rookie season.

“It’s a storybook ending really, to be playing Luke in a playoff, to even have a chance to win was exciting to me,” Snedeker said. 

Snedeker is off to an outstanding start to the season, and it was nice to see that result in a win after coming so close.  He has finished in the Top-25 in all six cuts that he has made, with five of those coming in the Top-10.  He also has a couple of fourth places finishes as well – The Transitions Championship and the Honda Classic.

Another bright spot over the weekend was Tommy Gainey, who just missed a 15-footer for birdie on 18 that would have got him to 12-under and a three-way playoff.  Instead, Gainey had to settle for a solo third finish, and just missed out being the first South Carolina native to win this event at Hilton Head Island, S.C.   Gainey started the tournament with a modest even-par 71 before putting together rounds of 67-67-68 over the final three days.  He jumped up 35 spots on the PGA TOUR money list to 30th after his third Top-10 of the season.

“I would have loved to have one,” Gainey said after his round.  “I think (The Heritage) is the second best tournament on TOUR behind the Masters.”

Garrett Willis turned in the other Top-10 performance this week by a former GPT player, finishing T9 at 7-under 277.  He held the first-round lead after his 7-under 64 in round one, and followed that up with a solid 69 in the second round, before falling back a bit with rounds of 74-70 over the weekend.  This was Garrett’s second Top-25 of the season, and his best outing since finishing T4 at the St. Jude Classic last summer.

A total of 11 former players made the cut this weekend at The Heritage, with five of those finishing in the Top-25.  Spencer Levin continues his fantastic 2011 campaign with a T14 performance (6-under 278), while Brendan Steele followed up his first career PGA TOUR win last week at Valero with a T21 at Harbour Town (5-under 279). 

Gainey was the biggest mover on the PGA TOUR money list, jumping from 65th to 30th.  Seven former GPT players are currently in the Top-25, lead by Martin Laird, who fell from 4th to 5th after taking the week off.  Gary Woodland also took the week off and remains in 6th, while Snedeker jumped from 27th to 7th with just over $2 million in earnings.  Rounding out the Top-25 for our former players are Bubba Watson (11th), Steve Marino (15th), Brendan Steele (19th) and Spencer Levin (20th). 

A few others among the Top-50 money leaders include Gainey (30th), J.B. Holmes (31st), Charley Hoffman (32nd), Jimmy Walker (37th), Marc Leishman (45th) and Robert Garrigus (46th). 

CLICK HERE for complete results from The Heritage.

That’s it for this week, next week both the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour will be in action.  The PGA TOUR will make a stop in Louisiana for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, while the Nationwide Tour heads to Valdosta, Georgia, for the South Georgia Classic, April 28-May 1.    

Good luck everyone, check back next week for a full recap of all the action!