|Published:||Sep 26, 2012 6:09 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 27, 2012 6:32 AM EDT|
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) - Brandt Snedeker is earnestly polite, and he could pass for Opie Taylor's big brother with his reddish-blond hair and sunny smile.
Do not be fooled.
Put Snedeker on a golf course, and he's got an edge the X-Games set would respect. He dishes it right back when Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods give him grief - "I want to make sure they don't get a hall pass" - and he's as competitive as they come. After three top-10 finishes in the last six weeks, including his monster win at the Tour Championship last weekend, he sees no reason why he can't make a run at No. 1 in the world.
"People might think that's crazy talk, but I don't," Snedeker said Wednesday. "After the way I played the last six weeks, I think I proved that I can do that."
First, however, there is a Ryder Cup to win.
U.S. captain Davis Love III raised a few eyebrows when he made Snedeker, a Ryder Cup rookie at 31, his final captain's pick. Not that he wasn't worthy. Snedeker is one of the purest putters around, and Ryder Cups often turn on which team is more dependable on the green.
But Snedeker had missed a big chunk of the summer because of a rib injury, returning at the British Open. Hunter Mahan had won twice on the PGA Tour, including the Match Play Championship when he beat Rory McIlroy. He also had Ryder Cup experience, making one of the key putts when the United States last won the Ryder Cup in 2008 at Valhalla.
"I look forward to getting to Medinah and trying to make Davis look like a genius," Snedeker said after he was selected.
He didn't need that long.
Snedeker was the runner-up at The Barclays, then shot 65-67 on the weekend to finish sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship. After tying for 37th at the BMW Championship, he knew his only shot at the FedEx Cup title - and it's $10 million payday - was to win the Tour Championship. No small task, considering Rory McIlroy and Woods were eying the same prize.
But Snedeker was the only player in the last five groups who broke par Sunday. With three birdies on the back nine, he'd built such a big lead it didn't even matter that he put his tee shot on 18 into the stands. He still finished with a 2-under 68, beating Justin Rose by three strokes.
"If you told me at the beginning of the year that I was going to be FedEx Cup champion, I probably would have told you I did not see that coming. I don't see how I can be there," Snedeker said. "As the year went on, I realized I was playing a lot better and better, practicing more concisely and doing the right stuff a lot more often than I had in the past. And the results started coming more and more.
"And then it's amazing, when you believe in yourself 100 percent, what can happen. The last six weeks, I give myself all the credit in the world for believing 100 percent in what I'm doing and not backing down to anybody, trying to play the best golf in the world."
He has been asked repeatedly this week what he's going to do with all the money he just won - add in the $1.44 million he got for winning The Tour Championship, and it was the richest payoff in golf - and Snedeker just smiles. Those good manners and boy-next-door personality friendliness are no act. He drives the same SUV he bought when he first joined the PGA Tour back in 2006, and he still lives in Nashville, Tenn., where Snedeker grew up and went to college.
He and his wife are expecting their second child next month.
"It is not going to affect me one way or the other," he said. "I know it sounds crazy, but it's really not."
That is abundantly clear when he talks about playing in his first Ryder Cup. He may have played all around the world and held his own against Woods and McIlroy, but Snedeker still sounds like that kid who used to wake up early and park himself in front of the TV for the entire day to watch Love and Fred Couples, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
"Just going crazy," Snedeker said with a grin. "So it's kind of crazy to think that I'm on that TV this time. I'm out there with the other kids watching me do what I'm supposed to be doing.
"It's going to be a lot of pressure on myself, because I want to perform," he added. "I want to show everybody that I am playing some great golf right now."