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Masters tears earn Snedeker support

By PETE IACOBELLI
Associated Press

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – See what one good cry can do?

Since Brandt Snedeker let his emotions flow after losing his chance at the Masters last week, he’s gained a full-blown following of well-wishers all with the same, simple message: Dry your eyes and hold your head up.

Snedeker was in contention Sunday at Augusta National, yet saw that slip away with a 5-over 77 that left him third behind champion Trevor Immelman and Tiger Woods.

After he walked off the course, Snedeker felt overcome by a week of drama and emotion. He couldn’t stop the tears – an image that touched the hearts of most who watched.

Snedeker has gotten countless calls and messages of support from strangers and friends, including country music star Vince Gill, who counseled, “It’s OK. Life goes on.”

“With me crying on national television, I guess people realize how much I care,” Snedeker said with his usual smile Wednesday.

Snedeker said several people came by at dinner Monday night, offering support. The galleries at Harbour Town also have boosted Snedeker’s morale.

“It’s been pretty phenomenal to see the number of people who’ve come out to put their arm around me and say, ‘It’s OK. It’s going to be fine,’” Snedeker said.

The backing’s helped Snedeker regain focus for the $5.5 million Verizon Heritage, which starts Thursday.

“I cannot thank them enough because it really makes me feel great about what I did there and kind of helps me heal,” Snedeker said.

Plenty of healing took place in Wednesday’s pro-am. Fans cheered Snedeker’s shots and offered their best wishes as he walked by.

“You’re a champion. You gave us a thrill,” said one gentleman who wore a sweatshirt from Snedeker’s alma mater, Vanderbilt.

“Thank you very much,” Snedeker replied.

Sometimes, Snedeker had to remind himself things aren’t so bad. After all, he earned $435,000 and moved over $1 million in money earned this season.

“I’m sitting there smiling, saying, ‘I just finished third in the Masters. Nobody died. We’re fine,’” Snedeker said.

The last three Verizon Heritage tournaments have produced first-time PGA Tour winners: Peter Lonard in 2005, Aaron Baddeley in 2006 and Boo Weekley a year ago. Weekley’s victory was particularly memorable, chipping in on the 71st and 72nd holes to beat Ernie Els by a shot.

It was Els’ seventh top-10 finish in nine appearances here. Els, ranked No. 3 in world, is among three golfers ranked in the top 10 playing Harbour Town the week after the Masters. No. 7 Justin Rose and No. 9 Jim Furyk are the others.

Also in the field is the 2007 Masters champ, Zach Johnson, who hadn’t seen Snedeker’s emotional post-tournament interview but understood the feelings.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster there,” Johnson said. “It’s one of those things where I think you put a lot effort into it, you put a lot of time into it, there’s a lot of fatigue” and it leads to Snedeker’s tears.

Snedeker remembered watching Len Mattiace break down in tears after losing the 2003 Masters to Mike Weir in a playoff, and wondered why a grown man would cry about losing a golf tournament.

Then Snedeker’s opportunity faded and, “I realize why he wanted to cry, was crying like a girl whose prom date didn’t show up,” he said. “That’s what I felt like.”

Gill joked to Snedeker it was probably a bad sign for Nashville’s country music crowd to pay attention.

“We write these kind of stories all the time,” Gill told Snedeker, who’s from Nashville. “We’re seeing one unfold and we still feel bad.”

Snedeker thinks the waterworks are under control.

Still, Snedeker wasn’t sure how he’d react to more Masters questions this week and warned organizers, “Make sure there’s a big box of Kleenex right here in front of my microphone just to make sure.”

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