SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brandt Snedeker is back to playing like the rising young PGA Tour star he was supposed to be.
The 29-year-old Tennessean rolled in his sixth birdie of the day on No. 17 and finished at 14-under 199 for a one-shot lead over Scott Piercy in the Phoenix Open.
Snedeker shot a 66, while Piercy had a pair of eagles en route to a 65 in the third round Saturday amid a loud, rowdy crowd estimated at just over 121,000. Many were on hand for the party as much, or more than, for the tournament.
Rickie Fowler (69) and Matt Every (68) were two back at 12 under. Camilo Villegas, who shared the lead with Mark Wilson after two rounds, birdied the last two holes to finish even for the day and minus-11 for the tournament.
Wilson, Mark Calcavecchia and Lee Janzen were among nine at 10-under 203.
The 49-year-old Calcavecchia has won the Phoenix Open three times, in 1989, 1992 and 2001. The last of his 13 PGA Tour victories came in 2007.
The sky was overcast with a threat of rain at TPC Scottsdale, and the wind kicked up late in the day. Perhaps that’s why the crowd was more than 40,000 shy of the estimated 164,000 who attended on Saturday a year ago. The record is 170,000 in 2008.
But the scene was as wild as usual at the notorious 16th hole, where bleachers surround the par 3 and fans have special chants for virtually every golfer. The good shots draw lusty cheers, the bad ones loud boos.
“It was crazy,” Snedeker said. “You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt and realize golf needs that. We need people out here having fun, being excited about being at a golf tournament. If you can’t take it for one hole, good God, get over yourself and have some fun.”
The same could be said of Snedeker’s young career.
He was the 2007 PGA Tour rookie of the year, but his victory at the Wyndham Championship that season remains his lone win.
He struggled early last year, missing the cut 12 of 26 times and was sidelined eight weeks by a rib injury.
“You just listen to your hype,” Snedeker said. “You hear people talking about how good you are and how much you could be the next big thing, you should be winning each week. And the minute you think that you should be winning the golf tournament each week, you’re completely out of bounds.”
The turnaround, he said, came last July at the AT&T National, where he tied for fifth.
“Literally like a flipped switch,” Snedeker said, “and I said, `I’m sick and tired of this.’ I don’t care if I have to quit playing golf, I’m not going to keep playing the way I’ve been playing. And ever since then I’ve been playing good.”
He tied for second Jan. 31 at Torrey Pines, one shot behind winner Ben Crane.
Snedeker’s only bogey Saturday, on the par-4 14th, was the most critical hole of the round, he said.
He pulled his second shot into the left bunker. He failed to clear the bunker with his third shot and, with a bad lie, knocked his fourth shot 32 feet past the pin. Then he nailed the putt.
“That says a lot about where my head is right now,” Snedeker said. “… It completely changed the way I walked on the 15th tee, feeling excited, confident, everything still going good.”
Snedeker has led after three rounds only once before, at the 2007 Buick Open.
Piercy, in search of his first victory on the tour, will be in the final group at Phoenix for the second year in a row. He was a shot off the lead going into the last round a year ago and finished tied for sixth.
Piercy said he learned watching eventual winner Kenny Perry play that final round.
“He made a ton of pars. He didn’t make any bogeys, or very few bogeys, and then when he made a birdie, that birdie was so huge,” Piercy said.
He said it showed him “`rather than put on the gas pedal the whole time, maybe drive with a little bit of caution.”
Piercy had a two eagles, the second one a tap-in on the par-4, 390-yard 10th hole, when his tee shot came to rest 10 inches from the pin.
The scene around the 16th was madness, with the mostly young crowd packed elbow-to-elbow, beer in hand.
People lined up to get into the bleachers as if it was some trendy Scottsdale night club.
When Snedeker teed off, fans nearest the tee shouted “gentleman, scholar, athlete,” the golfer’s high school motto.
When Piercy hit, they chanted the name of porn star Jenna Jameson, of all people.
“She went to the same high school as me,” he explained.
Snedeker leads by one in Phoenix
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brandt Snedeker is back to playing like the rising young PGA Tour star he was supposed to be.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.