Photo credit: @GolfosHmo
By Jeremy Harness
NAPA, Calif. – Brandt Snedeker was nine holes away from becoming the first player in the FedEx Cup era – which started in 2007 – to win the last event of the previous season and follow it up by winning the opening tournament of the next season.
One playoff hole later, one of the bigger golf collapses in recent years was complete.
Snedeker blew a four-stroke lead and was forced to watch as Kevin Tway outlasted Ryan Moore for his first PGA Tour win at the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort & Spa’s North Course. He made birdie on each of the last five holes – including the three playoff holes – to close the deal in grand fashion.
“It was nice to get hot at the end,” said Tway, the son of multiple PGA Tour winner Bob Tway, whose 1986 PGA Championship win came two years before he was born. “I knew the last few holes were easier, so I was just trying to make pars before I got to those holes.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the Masters, and now it’s happening. It’s going to be pretty awesome.”
With the win, the 30-year-old Tway not only gets 500 FedEx Cup points, but he also is fully exempt through the 2020-21 season while earning spots in this season’s Tournament of Champions, the Players Championship, the Masters as well as the PGA Championship.
He started the day three strokes behind Snedeker, and early on, it looked as if he would slip back to the pack, as he bogeyed two of the first four holes to fall five shots back at one point. He got things back together, however, as he got those two shots back at the sixth and eighth.
He bogeyed the 11th, but he held firm and then birdied the final two holes to get into a three-way playoff with Snedeker and Ryan Moore, who came from seven shots back get into the mix.
Starting the final round at nine-under, Moore played bogey-free golf and steadily climbed his way up the leaderboard, and his birdie at the par-5 18th tied Snedeker at 14-under, while Snedeker still had three holes to play.
“On a day like today, it’s not necessarily about how you’re swinging, how you’re hitting (the ball), it’s how you can just put the ball in the hole,” Moore said. “Somehow, I managed to do that today. I was able to just put together a really scrappy round of golf.” For the first nine holes, Snedeker was in complete control of the tournament. He did bogey the fourth hole, but he quickly got that shot back with a birdie at the very next hole and then picked up another shot at the par-3 seventh. At that point, he had a five-shot lead.
The wheels started to wobble for Snedeker when he hit the back nine, bogeying holes 10 through 12 and had his lead completely disintegrate. Several guys were right on his tail, and Moore caught all the way up to him.
Snedeker birdied each of the last three holes on Saturday, and he kept that trend going with a birdie at the par-5 16th to re-take the lead.
However, he quickly lost that lead when he found himself in the trees at the 17th and dropped a shot. Needing at least a birdie to avoid a playoff, he found the fairway bunker on the right side at the 18th. He then found the deep rough with his second shot. He made it on the green with his approach shot and then two-putted for his par to force a playoff with Moore and Tway.
On the first playoff hole, Snedeker’s drive found the fairway, but his second shot trickled off the green. Moore’s second shot did the same while Tway’s was about 20 yards short. The other two were able to get it up and down, and when Snedeker’s attempt missed to the right, his tournament was done.
“Really disappointing,” Snedeker said. “I’m going to look at that one in a few years and know I gave that one away. It sucks right now, but (I’m) playing next week, so (let’s) build on it and take the positives from this week.
“I played probably 63 holes of pretty damn good golf and nine holes I wish I had back.”
Luke List, the only guy in the field who did not wear a hat this week, also made a run on the back nine, and his eagle at the 18th left him at 13-under and only one shot back.
J.B. Holmes was one of the guys to make an early charge on Sunday. The former Ryder Cupper started at seven-under and gained significant ground. In fact, he picked up (four) shots and found himself tied for fourth after birdieing three hole in a row at holes 11 through 13. He finished the tournament at 11-under and in ninth place.
Another was Danny Lee, who started the day at seven-under, but then a stretch of three birdies in five holes on the front nine had him tied for fifth at one point. However, he stalled out on the back nine and could not get any closer, finishing at 10-under and tied for 10th.
One guy who was not in the mix at the end was Phil Mickelson. He was in it for the first 36 holes of this event, but fatigue from playing in France for the Ryder Cup last weekend set in over the weekend, and he finished at eight-under.
“I’ve made a bit of a mistake that I’m going to learn from, as far as playing too many events in a row and not being able to recover and be as sharp as I want to be,” Mickelson said. “And then, I just need to be focused when I’m playing.
“I think next year, when it has a bit of a break between the FedEx Cup and the start of the season, I think the field here’s going to get really strong.”