PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Brandt Snedeker had the club in his hand even as his caddie stood next to him on the tee going through his yardage book. Moments later, Snedeker took a quick waggle with his 8-iron, set his feet and launched a shot that plopped down 3 feet next to the cup.
It was his first birdie at Spyglass Hill on Friday, and by the end of the day, Snedeker was tied for the lead with Ted Potter Jr. in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The scene at the par-3 12th hole was vintage Snedeker.
He is committed to what he’s doing. And he doesn’t waste any time.
About the only thing that hasn’t come quickly for Snedeker this year is winning, through it’s not for a lack of trying. It is rare, especially this early in the PGA Tour season, for a player to lead the FedEx Cup without having won.
But in four tournaments this year, Snedeker finished third at Kapalua and was runner-up the last two weeks. He finished four shots behind Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, and then finished four shots behind Phil Mickelson at the Phoenix Open.
“Keep running into guys who are or who are going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Snedeker said during a CBS Sports reception earlier in the week.
The good news is that he’s still playing well. Better yet, golf’s two biggest stars are not in his way — at least not yet.
Woods isn’t at Pebble Beach this year. Mickelson was in the group of Snedeker at Spyglass Hill and was poised to stay relatively close to the leaders until three bogeys during a four-hole stretch along the ocean that dropped him six shots out of the lead.
Both will be at Pebble Beach on Saturday, so while Mickelson is hopeful of making up ground on what is forecast to be a gorgeous day, Snedeker will be right there with him.
“Any time you can get a win at Pebble Beach, it would be pretty special,” Snedeker said after his bogey-free round of 4-under 68 at Spyglass, the toughest of the three courses in the rotation.
Considering the start of his year, the timing would be ideal. That’s not to suggest Snedeker already is pressing.
“I take nothing but positives away from the way I’ve played the weekend the last couple events,” he said. “I know I’ll have a lot of fun this weekend, so just try to recreate that. That’s how you win out here. You keep putting yourself in position, and the more times you do that, the more success you’re going to have. I realize I’m playing really well. … Be patient and keep doing the small stuff I did last week really well.
“It’s real promising this week the way I’ve taken that momentum from last week into this one.”
Hunter Mahan was among those one shot behind. With one more round before everyone has played all three courses in the rotation, the leaderboard was a big traffic jam. Three dozen players were within five shots of the lead.
Snedeker made it look easy at Spyglass, even though the day began in rugged conditions with a light rain and temperatures in the low 40s. He hit a towering 8-iron on the downhill, par-3 12th hole that plopped 3 feet next to the cup for his first birdie. He added a pair of simple up-and-down birdies on the par 5s and then closed out a solid day with an 8-iron to 5 feet on the eighth hole.
His goal for the last two days?
“Not do anything stupid,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t do it very often.”
Potter remains somewhat of a mystery. He won last year in his rookie season at The Greenbrier Classic to claim a peculiar footnote in history — the only player to win a PGA Tour event in which Woods and Mickelson missed the cut. Still, his performance has been spotty. Potter missed nine out of the 12 cuts going into The Greenbrier, and then missed four out of nine cuts after his win.
“It’s just a funny game like that,” Potter said. “Some weeks you play really well and you get the right kicks and everything goes well. And then there are weeks you can still hit the ball well and get the bad kicks.”
Fredrik Jacobson had the low round of the day, a 66 at Pebble Beach that put him in the group at 7 under with Mahan, John Merrick and Patrick Reed.
Saturday’s forecast is for more sunshine, giving those in the Northeast who are snowed in some pretty pictures on television. Snedeker is part of the celebrity rotation, meaning he will join the circus — Bill Murray, Ray Romano and the rest of their Hollywood crew, along with star power from other sports such as Tony Romo, Matt Cain and even San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
Five days after a Super Bowl loss, Harbaugh had reason to smile. He was leading the pro-am portion of the tournament. Harbaugh is playing with Jason Day of Australia, who made a late string of birdies for a 68 at Spyglass Hill and was two shots behind.
Mahan lost a stroke on the spongy greens. He went to knock in a short bogey putt on the par-3 seventh hole when the ball moved on him.
“It just rolled over in like a heel print or something,” Mahan said. “I didn’t feel like I moved it. I didn’t feel like I had anything much to do with it moving. It’s just a rub of the green, so had to go back and take a penalty. That was frustrating, because I was hitting it so good.”
“I love Pebble Beach. I’ve played well there and I’m only one good round away,” he said. “If I can shoot something in the mid-60s, I’ll be right there for Sunday’s round, which is what I care about.”
Mickelson was six shots behind going into the final round last year when he won. That was against Charlie Wi, still searching for his first tour win. At the top now is Snedeker, the second-highest ranked American behind Woods who is averaging 66.5 in his last eight rounds.