Brandt Snedeker ready for U.S. Open thanks to improved health

USGA/Darren Carroll

Brandt Snedeker ready for U.S. Open thanks to improved health

PGA Tour

Brandt Snedeker ready for U.S. Open thanks to improved health

ERIN, Wis. – Brandt Snedeker is feeling fine, the left-hand injury he suffered during the Masters has improved with some time off and some cortisone injections.

Really the only thing bothering the sandy-haired 36-year-old from Nashville is that his beloved Predators fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

“I’m not over it,” he said with a pained smirk.

Ranked No. 38 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Snedeker looks fit and poised to attack the massive 7,741-yard layout at Erin Hills when the U.S Open begins Thursday in Southeastern Wisconsin. Seeking his first major championship, the veteran is paired with Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton at 8:40 a.m. Eastern in Round 1.

There’s been plenty of angst in certain corners over the U.S. Golf Association’s selection of Erin Hills to host the national championship. Blind tee shots and the deep fescue rough became the story at the first-time U.S. Open track before golfers arrived on property.

After some players – most notably Kevin Na – complained about the fescue, the USGA moved to trim down portions of the rough stuff on some holes. Upon finishing a practice round, Snedeker said he isn’t fazed by the tall grass.

“It’s fair,” he said. “A couple holes (the fescue’s) in play, a couple it’s not in play. You have to hit a bad shot to get in it. If you do, you deserve to be penalized.

“On the 10th hole, the 18th hole you have to hit a really bad tee shot to get in it. You have plenty of room to hit it. There’s a few holes it sneaks in there but if you get lucky and catch a lie you’re fine. If you’re unlucky you might have an unplayable lie. That’s part of golf.”

That’s the type of perspective we’ve come to expect from Snedeker, who burst onto the scene as the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2007. The Vanderbilt product has seen plenty of highs, such as capturing the 2012 FedEx Cup, winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. He rose to No. 4 in the world in 2013.

He’s also struggled to maintain consistency and remains on the dreaded “best players without a major victory” list. His best major finishes were T-3 in the 2008 Masters and T-3 in the 2012 Open Championship. He’s twice been T-8 in the U.S. Open (2010 and 2015).

This season, Snedeker has played in 13 events, his best finish fourth at Pebble Beach, one of three top 10s. He’s missed two cuts and a month on Tour nursing his hand injury.

He failed to make the cut May 18 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his return. He followed that up with a T-48 at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational a week later.

Is there reason to believe he could contend in the U.S. Open? The Erin Hills greens are rolling purely and Snedeker can work the flat stick. He ranks 18th on the Tour in strokes gained: putting.

Many believe those who can bomb the ball off the tee will have a huge advantage on this Midwest monster of a course. Driving accuracy will be as important as length, Snedeker believes.

“It’s in front of you,” Snedeker said. “Driving well will lead to success. Driving poorly, you’ll struggle.”

Thunderstorms are expected throughout the tournament and delayed practice rounds. The weather variable could be a major factor in deciding who succeeds.

“Obviously the course is a little softer than I want to see it,” Snedeker said after the rains came. “I think most guys want to see it playing firm and fast. The forecast we have coming through looks like it’s going to be a long golf course.”

Leave it to Snedeker to provide the long view.

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