Not one for change, Snedeker sees a payoff

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Brandt Snedeker finds something that works and sticks with it.

He picked up a putter in 2005 on the Nationwide Tour and it has been with him since, except for a short separation last summer when the putts stopped falling. Snedeker, like most golfers, felt as if he needed to teach it a lesson and try something new. Actually, he wanted to teach “her” a lesson. And how did he choose the gender?

“She’s done pretty well over the last nine years, so I feel like it’s a marriage at this point,” he said.

His driver is made by a company that seems to promote something new every other month, and yet Snedeker is still using one made in 2010. In this era of technology, that practically makes it a relic. And those irons? He’s been using those since before Jordan Spieth came out on tour.

The equipment editor for Golf Digest figured out the resale value for the putter and the driver combined would be $34.

“That wouldn’t shock me,” Snedeker said. “If you see any more, I’m willing to buy them for that.”

That shouldn’t be a problem for Snedeker, who used them all quite handily and set the tournament scoring record for the second time in three years when he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. The victory was worth just over $1.2 million.

It was valuable in so many other ways.

For starters, it made him relevant again, a term Snedeker used when he realized at the start of the year he was no longer eligible for the events that attract the world’s best players. The seventh career victory got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, and by moving up to a No. 31 world ranking, he can count on the four World Golf Championships, along with starting next year in Kapalua.

More than that, however, it justified a decision last summer to get away from something that had been working well.

He changed coaches.

Snedeker had been with Todd Anderson since the end of 2005 – about as long as he’s had that putter – and he won six PGA Tour events and over $20 million in earnings, which doesn’t include the $10 million bonus from his FedEx Cup title in 2012 right before he played in his first Ryder Cup. Golf can get stale, however, and it was a big move for Snedeker to seek out Butch Harmon a week before the U.S. Open.

“A class act,” Harmon said Sunday night. “It’s fun working with him. He has a quick wit, which fits with me. And he works hard. He was really good at one time and he got lost. I helped him find his way. Sometimes it’s more than just the X’s and O’s of the swing.”

Results were far from immediate. Snedeker had his worst year on tour and for the first time didn’t make it beyond the second FedEx Cup playoff event. Tom Watson wanted him on the Ryder Cup team for his putting, but Snedeker played his way out of the conversation.

But he kept working away, never losing hope he would turn it around. The payoff was a week at Pebble Beach that was close to perfect, and not just the weather. Snedeker made one bogey in 72 holes. When he wasn’t at his best, he figured out how to manage.

“He did a great job of helping me understand how I swing the golf club, what I need to do to be successful,” Snedeker said. “The great thing about Butch is he’s not technical at all. He instills confidence in you when you don’t even realize he’s doing it. We might have a three-hour practice session and he might say one thing about my swing and 15 things about the mental side of it, what you should be thinking in certain situations.”

Harmon treated Snedeker like any other of his clients. There were a few technical issues – his swing was getting out of position and too long at the top – but the goal was for Snedeker to understand the swing and how to fix it.

The other message from Harmon was to develop a safe shot when the swing doesn’t feel right. For Snedeker, that was teeing the ball lower and getting on top of the ball sooner, a shot that helped him on the back nine when he seized control and wanted to keep it.

Harmon loves the old-school work ethic of Snedeker. He also loves the refreshing pace with which he plays the game. Snedeker talks fast and walks even faster. He gives his hips a quick swivel as he sets up over the ball – maybe that activates his glutes – and pulls the trigger. Standing over putts, he keeps his eye on the hole as he takes five or six short, repetitive practice strokes, and then he steps over the ball and gives it a pop.

That part about him never seems to change. And it appears to be working again.