Snedeker emerging as an American star

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PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. (AP) - Brandt Snedeker sat alone at the far end of a bar in Carmel called A.W. Shucks _ the perfect name for an oyster bar and the perfect spot for a Tennessee golfer with a mop of strawberry blond hair and an innocent, freckled face that belies how fiercely he wants to win.

He was waiting for longtime friends from Nashville for a drink before going to dinner with his wife. No one bothered him. In this tony town packed with Hollywood heavyweights, star athletes and Fortune 500 executives during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, not many recognized him.

Six days later, there was no mistaking golf’s hottest player.

Snedeker posed with Clint Eastwood on the 18th green at Pebble Beach, his name in the record book for the lowest score in the 76-year history of the old Crosby Clambake. The previous two weeks, he had to settle for second place behind the best players of his generation _ Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, Phil Mickelson in Phoenix.

A two-shot win at Pebble Beach doesn’t put him in their league. But he’s headed in that direction.

Snedeker had said a week earlier at the Phoenix Open that elite players are defined by winning, especially majors, and “I haven’t done nearly enough of that.”

“I’m playing great right now,” he said. “I’m as high as I’ve ever been in the world ranking and that kind of stuff, but you have to win tournaments to validate that,” he said. “I haven’t done it.”

Pebble Beach was only his fifth career win, and Snedeker is not the first player to go on a big run. Remember, Jason Dufner had a stretch last spring when he won twice and was runner-up in four tournaments. But there’s an explosiveness about Snedeker, not to mention that putting stroke, which makes his goal of being the best a little more plausible.

“Brandt, great performance. Wish I had your putting stroke again,” Tom Watson tweeted Sunday night.

In his rookie season on tour, Snedeker was 10-under par through 10 holes on the North Course at Torrey Pines when he had to settle for a 61. He wound up third that week behind Woods. Late last year, he missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills for a 59.

No one had finished second to Woods and Mickelson in consecutive weeks. Dating to 1990, no one had finished second in back-to-back weeks and won the next tournament. Even more impressive about the way Snedeker won Pebble Beach is that he knew he would have to score on the opening seven holes, and he did just that. Snedeker hit a 4-iron to 4 feet for eagle on the par-5 second and drilled a 3-wood over the massive hill on the par-5 sixth to 20 feet for a two-putt birdie.

He made only five bogeys all week, and four times made birdie on the next hole.

His big run began after he missed the cut at the PGA Championship, and then sorted out an issue with his driver. Since then, Snedeker has broken par in 33 out of 37 rounds. His 7-under 65 on Sunday was his 10th straight round in the 60s _ that includes a 68 in the cold and rain at Spyglass Hill, and two rounds on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

In the last two years, only three players have won at least four times on the PGA Tour _ Rory McIlroy with five, Snedeker and Woods with four.

Validation comes from winning.

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