Growing game, family improve Snedeker's poise

Brandt Snedeker during the third round of the 2013 Masters.

Brandt Snedeker during the third round of the 2013 Masters.

— Mandy Snedeker was up at 3:30 a.m. Saturday. That kind of thing happens when you’re the mother of a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old. Many things have changed since Brandt Snedeker sobbed golf ball-sized tears into his towel here five years ago, but nothing quite bigger than becoming a dad.

“I hope he gets to see our little girl before she gets to sleep,” said Mandy. “If not, these are long mornings and they will get to play in the morning.”

The promise of that scene alone tells us that Snedeker will prepare differently this time around for being in the final group Sunday at the Masters. Nothing melts a nervous heart faster than a bouncing baby.

Yes, Snedeker is a changed man since his emotionally charged 5-over 77 in 2008. And it’s not just because of Lily and Austin alone.

“I had no clue what I was doing in 2008,” said Snedeker, who shares the lead 7-under 209 with Angel Cabrera. “I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play this golf course the way you’re supposed to play it.”

This is a confident man. A man who feels refreshed after a rib injury brought his hot start to 2013 to a grinding halt. He calls it a tale of two seasons: a victory, two runners-up and a third-place finish, followed by an injury that led to a month of no golf. There was a nice week of vacation in Hawaii, but otherwise a frustrating wait as his injury healed. When he came back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it was like starting the year all over again. He missed two cuts before coming to Augusta.

“I feel not quite back to the way I was, but I feel very, very close to where I was,” he said. “The confidence is coming back, everything.”

Last week Snedeker went to Sea Island and spent six days preparing for the year’s first major. His biggest concern: Getting the ball to turn over consistently so that his miss is to the right.

“If you miss the ball right here, you’ve got a chance,” he said. “If you miss the ball left here, you don’t, as a general rule.”

So far this week, Snedeker is fourth in greens in regulation and fourth in fairways. Snedeker knows that he doesn’t hit the ball far enough to play from the first cut at Augusta National.

And, of course, there’s putting. Snedeker is 10th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained. He spent a great deal of his time at Augusta putting and as he said, so far that time getting comfortable has paid off.

Mandy and Brandt were in college at Vanderbilt when they met. Her roommate was on the Vandy golf team and had a class with Brandt. He’d often come over to study, and well, the rest is history.

Mandy remembers 2008 well.

“It was awful,” she said. It took about a week for Brandt to recover from the blow of coming so close, only to fall – hard.

Mandy said her husband is a completely different person now. A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, “Sneds” carries himself with more confidence. He’s still emotional, she said, he just knows how the handle the situation better.

“That’s what I love about him,” she said. “He wears his emotions on his sleeve. . . . It’s golf. You go through the good times and the bad times. It’s like a marriage.”

Snedeker, 32, knows his place out here. He’s knows he’s not an overpowering player. He knows he’s not going to make “a hundred cuts in a row.” He’s more of an up-and-down player, and right now he’s concentrating on capitalizing on this massive up.

Patience will be his key tomorrow. That, and getting the job done on the par 5s.

“He’s great with his emotions,” said longtime caddie Scott Vail. “He’s calm; he’s in control.”

In 19 of the last 22 years, the Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing. Snedeker made it clear in his post-round press conference that he’s not here for a good finish. He’s not looking for another top 5 to pad the bank account.

“I’ve spent 32 years of my life getting ready for tomorrow and it’s all been a learning process and I am completely, 100 percent sure that I’m ready to handle no matter what happens tomorrow,” he said.

“I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t win, period.”

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