Healthy, Snedeker looks to make move at Bay Hill

Brandt Snedeker during Round 3 of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Brandt Snedeker during Round 3 of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

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— So the next time you’re moving your belongings from one residence to another and you’re overwhelmed by a truckload of boxes and don’t want to even think about picking up a refrigerator or couch, just pull a rib muscle and let others do the heavy lifting.

Call it Snedeker style.

“That was fun to move to a new house,” Brandt Snedeker said Tuesday from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first tournament since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 10.

Yeah, fun because apparently he didn’t even have to lift a lamp. Rather, he was rehabilitating a strained left rib muscle that sidelined him from the PGA Tour for five weeks.

“If you’re ever going to be injured, it’s a great time to move so you don’t have to do anything,” the Nashville, Tenn., resident said. “I actually felt guilty. I watched my wife move a lot of boxes and everybody else moved a lot of boxes, and I told them where to put it and how to unpack it. It was kind of nice.”

Bossy, bossy.

These days, though, he’s fresh, rusty, happy and healthy.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “My rib feels great, and my golf game feels where it was. I feel completely healed and have no concern whatsoever.”

Not that it was good to leave. Snedeker had gone 2-2-1 in his last three starts before the sabbatical. He was world golf’s hottest player. He was floating so high that, after winning on the Monterey Peninsula, he said, “It seems like over the last three months I’ve been waking up in a dream world.”

He was on such a run that he closed out the Pebble victory despite feeling discomfort at impact on the last four or five holes.

“It was a concern, and I didn’t feel great on that Sunday,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I wondered how severe it was.”

A couple of days later, he said it hurt for him to breathe and move. So he got the rib checked out and was told that recovery would take two to eight weeks. The eight-week possibility got his attention because he was concerned about not being 100 percent for his beloved Masters.

He has no such fears now after the lengthy R & R & R – rest, relaxation and rehab. He went three weeks without touching a club, then started playing and practicing about 10 days ago.

On one hand, he knows he’s competitively rusty. On the other, he says he has “very high expectations” this week at Bay Hill and going forward.

“I’m the freshest guy on the PGA Tour right now,” he said, smiling. “I feel great about it. Sometimes an injury can be a good thing.”

In his case, he recharged while spending time at home with his family. Memories were built. For example, he said, his young daughter used some new phrases that “tugged on the heart strings.”

Now it’s a matter of regaining touch with his short game and getting back in the heat of competition. That in mind, he spent Friday through Sunday in Sea Island, Ga., working with his instructor of seven years, Todd Anderson. Snedeker played 18 holes Saturday and nine apiece on Sunday and Tuesday before spending considerable time on the Bay Hill putting green with Anderson, trying to get feel and rhythm back in a stroke that enabled him to rank No. 1 in putting last year.

“He’s ready,” Anderson said. “He’s swinging well. The biggest thing is getting the rust off his short game and putting.”

Historically, Snedeker has bounced back quickly from injuries – i.e., hip surgeries after the 2010 and ’11 seasons. More apropos to his brilliant play since August is how the moppy-haired, freckle-faced strawberry blond rebounded from a 77-78 and missed cut at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

That MC goes down as a blessing in disguise. He put the time off to good use, resting and then visiting Anderson and tweaking his swing. “The light went off,” Anderson said.

And Snedeker, a medium-length hitter, went from streaky ballstriker to hot streak, winning the FedEx Cup and continuing on this year until his ribs acted up. The transformation is striking. He never has finished a season ranked better than 103rd in greens in regulation, and dropped as low as 182nd in 2010. This year he’s first. He has never fared better than 110th in ball-striking and has been as low as 183rd. This year he’s 14th.

Those results stem from that August day when Anderson showed Snedeker swing video. Then they went to work on fixing the downswing path and releasing the club properly. Snedeker’s clubface had the tendency to come into the ball too steeply and closed. Now the face is more open and shallow as it moves toward the inside of the ball. The change has helped him eliminate the left side of the course and hit his stock shot, a baby draw, more consistently.

“I’ve never seen a guy who is less satisfied with where he is than Brandt,” said Anderson, the 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year. “He always wants to get better. Money doesn’t motivate him. His challenge is reaching his potential and seeing how far and good he can get.

“If we keep him where he is and fine-tune, I think he can do some special stuff.”

Special stuff, of course, doesn’t not include moving boxes.

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