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Golf: Snedeker emerging as an American star

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(AP)
Brandt Snedeker tees off Sunday during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in Pebble Beach, Calif.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Brandt Snedeker sat alone at the far end of a bar in Carmel called A.W. Shucks.

It’s 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 2 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 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.”

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.

Snedeker’s 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 2 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.

Snedeker now is No. 4 in the world, and he said he would like to be known as the best American golfer. He believes he can be No. 1, no small task with McIlroy at the top and Woods getting closer than ever to a return to his full form.

As he rapped putts in the chill of the morning Saturday at Pebble Beach, one longtime observer involved in plenty of big moments watched him and said, “This guy is winning a major this year.”

His next crack is in 2 months at Augusta National, where Snedeker made the cut as an amateur in 2004 and famously sobbed into a white towel in 2008 after enduring 4 hours of brilliance and blunder, his emotions all over the place.

“I know that if I play the way I played the last 3 weeks that there’s very few people in the world that can beat me,” he said. “And I will relish that challenge being there Sunday trying to beat the best player in the world or whoever it may be down the back nine at Augusta. That’s something I look forward to instead of dreading maybe four years ago.”

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