Imagining an injury-free season for Snedeker


On a cold and rainy Atlanta morning Brandt Snedeker proves that his patience, or maybe it’s his perspective, remains even if his health continues to be a moving target.

Snedeker is on his way to a commercial shoot when the inevitable question arrives – How are you feeling?

“My knee is almost to 100 percent . . . no pain,” he allows in a relaxed, if not rehearsed, tone.

For the six-time PGA Tour winner questions about his health have become part of the process, as ubiquitous as the daily injections of Forteo he’s been enduring for the last nine months.

His most recent dust up with his doctors occurred early last month when he landed awkwardly jumping off a Segway during a corporate outing in China and was diagnosed with a strained ACL and bruised tibia in his left knee.

The knee injury, which did not require surgery, forced Snedeker to withdraw from the Australian PGA and last week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge but at “almost 100 percent” he left no ambiguity when asked if he’d be ready for the 2014 opener in Maui.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “I’ve spent enough time in doctor’s offices. For the first time in my career I’m doing everything I can to be fit and play a full season.”

Avoiding the DL for an entire calendar, an afterthought for most players, lingers in the cold December air for a long moment as one recalls Snedeker’s frequent trips in and out of MRI machines and operating rooms throughout his career.

“Sneds” earned his Tour card in 2006 after finishing ninth on the Tour money list despite missing more than a month after breaking his collarbone when he tripped over a tree root.

In ’09, he missed more than two months with a rib injury; underwent left-hip surgery to repair his labrum in ’10 and was back in the Vail, Colo., clinic less than a year later for the same procedure on his right hip. Early last year, doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., informed him he was suffering from a condition called low bone turnover.

This diagnoses lead to the daily Forteo injections in his stomach beginning in March. Forteo is an anabolic osteoporosis treatment designed to increase bone mineral density.

Doctors told Snedeker it would take about two years for the Forteo to make a difference and recent checkups have indicated there has been a “slight increase (in his bone density), which is good,” he says.

All of which made his Segway scare somehow seem less threatening. In a curious twist, the injury forced him to rest and rehab instead of spending countless hours on the practice tee.

Although Snedeker and swing coach Todd Anderson have invested a good amount of time honing his prolific action, few players not named Vijay Singh spend as much energy in pursuit of perfection.

“Competing for Brandt is so physically demanding and it takes its toll. We’re trying to get him on a pitch count and get him on a hitting regimen,” says Snedeker’s trainer Randy Myers. “You see it in every sport. Certain guys have a propensity to overwork and he does that.”

This most recent medical misstep, however, has tempered that natural instinct and required Snedeker to spend more time in the gym than at the golf course.

The 33-year-old father of two has also been forced to temper his “type A” ways. Life has a tendency to do that.

“Last year near the end he was disciplined making sure he got his rest,” Myers says. “He’s always been the guy who is trying to prove something.”

There is also something to be said for Snedeker’s perspective after 2013. Following a scorching start, the emotional plateau of the Masters – where he began the final round tied for the lead but struggled to a closing 75 on Sunday – was followed by a less than stellar finish in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

To Snedeker, the ebb and flow of 2013 is a fitting metaphor for his career, periods of brilliance framed largely by injury-induced lulls. For a player who is prone to self-examination, however, that assessment is neither critical nor contrived.

“It was the best season of my career,” says Snedeker of his second consecutive two-win campaign. “It was a learning season to find my way back. It’s the way golf goes. I’m going to have ups and downs in my career.”

So the question remains, imagine what Snedeker – perhaps the hottest player on the planet through the first month and a half of last season (he finished third, T-23, runner-up, runner-up and won in his first five events of 2013) – could accomplish if he could stay clear of the doctor’s office?

“It would be amazing if I could make it through a whole season without an injury,” he admits. “I would love to play the right schedule for me and see what I could do.”

That prospect warms the December chill – no doctors, no DL. Amazing indeed.