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If you aren't following Brandt Snedeker, there has never been a better time, as Vandy's greatest golfer will be playing for the US this weekend in the Ryder Cup.
Brandt Snedeker, a Nashville native, is the most decorated golfer in Vanderbilt history and is pushing himself into the argument for the greatest college and pro career of any Vandy athlete ever.
Fresh off his 4th career PGA win, locking up the FedEx Cup points championship, Brandt will be playing in the leadoff match of the Ryder Cup Championship on Friday morning, and you should be watching (7:20 CDT on ESPN).
So if you aren't aware of just how well Sneds–as he is known to his friends, fans and internet strangers–is representing Vanderbilt, brush up on your Sneds history.
Brandt at Vandy
In his Vandy career from 1999-2003, Snedeker was Vanderbilt's first ever All-American golfer, earning the title twice (2nd team in 2002 and 1st team in 2003), a three-time All-SEC, and Vanderbilt's first ever SEC Golfer of the Year. In 2002, he became the first Commodore in the modern era to make the NCAA Championship, then in 2003 did it again.
Brandt as a Pro
Sneds won the 2003 Amateur Public Links before turning pro in 2004. He earned 2 wins in three years on the Nationwide Tour before making the PGA Tour in 2007.
In 2007 he earned his first PGA Tour win and was named Rookie of the Year. He now has 4 career PGA Tour wins, and four career Top-10 finishes in majors.
However, Brandt had also been held back by injuries for much of his career, including missing major time with a rib injury this year.
But since coming back from that rib injury, Sneds has been on fire with 4 Top 10s in his last 10 events, capping it off with a win in the Tour Championship last weekend, which clinched him a $10 million paycheck the FedEx Cup Champion.
Brandt finished this season with two tournament wins, the FedEx Cup Championship, and is now ranked No. 10 in the world, his first ever appearance in the World Golf Rankings Top 10.
Sneds is known for his putting, and may legitimately be the best putter in the world right now, ranking No. 1 on the Tour this season in nearly every putting statistic. Though not particularly long off the tee, he is successful when he is accurate off the tee, setting up chances to gain strokes on the green.
Sneds is also known for his quick style of play, particularly once he addresses the ball, but has a reputation for being a bit jumpy, in the past having been a bit shakable if he struggled (an aspect of his personality which seemed to be well in hand as he pulled away in the Tour Championship last weekend).
THE RYDER CUP
The Ryder Cup is all match-play meaning total strokes over the round don't matter, it only matters who has the least strokes on a given hole.
Each match is worth 1 point for a win, and each team receives a half for a tie, so with 28 total matches, 28 points are on the line. In order to win outright, you to get 14.5 points. With a tie of 14-14, the reigning champions (in this case Europe) retains the cup.
Days 1 and 2 consist of pairs play with four matches each morning and four matches each afternoon. In the morning sessions, there are four foursomes, a two-on-two match, where each pair shares a ball and alternates shots. In the afternoon sessions, there are four fourball matches, also known as best ball, where all four players play their own ball, with the team's best score each hole being the only score that counts.
What the two sets of four matches mean is only 8 golfers will play for each team in a session, and several top golfers may play two sessions in a day, while others will only play once or possibly not at all.
On Sunday, all 12 players will play a singles match.
Brandt at the Ryder Cup
Making the Ryder Cup is a huge honor, and the boisterous crowds and team play are unlike anything anywhere else in golf.
Brandt's putting is a huge advantage at the Ryder Cup, as often a chance to win or tie a hole or an entire match comes down to a single putt, and there is quite possibly no one on earth that you'd rather take that put right now than our boy Sneds.
Brandt is one of the top guys on the tour in birdies, but doesn't hit a ton of eagles, which makes him a really solid choice in a foursome rounds, since he isn't likely to give away holes. He's also a good choice as sort of the safe player in a fourball pair, since you can hope he gets a birdie or par while his partner goes for eagle.
In his recent form, Brandt would be good in just about any format, but due to his putting he is especially suited for fourball. I wonder if he may sit out in fourball to get in some longer hitters and to get him some rest, since he will be playing his 11th event in 13 weeks.
All through practice, Brandt was paired with Jim Furyk, a veteran who is extremely accurate off the tee and in his intermediate game, and is also a very solid putter. Furyk and Sneds will be teamed up in the opening match.
Furyk is extremely unlikely to give away strokes, but plays an extremely even keeled game, relying on hitting lots of pars rather than risk taking for big results, which makes this pair sound like a foursome team, but not much when it comes to fourball. If Sneds does get into any fourball matches, it might be with a different partner.
The Europeans have won 6 of the last 8 Ryder Cups, but the Americans have won two of the last three home events.
The Europeans have a very strong team, with 4 of the top 5 golfers in the world, including World No. 1 Rory McIlroy (who will be facing Brandt in the opening match, along with Graham McDowell.
Additionally, the more experienced Europeans all have great records in Ryder Cup play, particularly in foursome and fourball.
The Americans do have 5 top 10 players in the world, but other than Tiger (who has never been that successful in the team portions of the Ryder Cup anyway), the other 4, Sneds, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson are in their first or second Ryder Cup.
If the Americans are going to succeed, these younger guys will have to be pretty successful against some much more experienced Europeans. But the Americans do seem to be in form as several were in the mix throughout the Ryder Cup playoffs.
As a result, I think the Americans will be in striking distance once singles matches role around, and if Americans can win the day on Singles Sunday (as they often do) they have a good shot to win the cup.