Tiger Woods failed to do it — twice. Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Bill Haas all came up short.
Brandt Snedeker, however, is poised to become the first FedEx Cup champion to return to East Lake Golf Club and defend his title in the six-year history of the PGA Tour playoff finale.
Snedeker, currently third in the FedEx Cup point standings, will defend his Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles Sept. 19-22 at East Lake. The 32-year-old must navigate the three lead-up playoff events, beginning this week at the Barclays, but he is in a secure position with 2,218 points. He trails only Woods (3,059) and Matt Kuchar (2,293).
The top five in the standings entering the Tour Championship are guaranteed the FedEx Cup championship — and its $10 million bonus — with a victory in the playoff’s final event. It’s a position Snedeker was in last year before his three-shot victory led to the dual titles and $11.44 million payday.
“It really springboarded me to where I am today,” Snedeker said Monday at a media day for the championship. “I can honestly say that the year I had this year is directly related to what happened at East Lake last year. I was able to handle that pressure, develop all that confidence that I got from that day in beating the best players in the world on a great classic golf course like East Lake, where there is nowhere to hide.”
It hasn’t exactly been an easy time for Snedeker as he enters his seventh year on the PGA Tour. During his victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February, he had to be prodded by his caddie to finish the final five holes with severe pain in his ribs. Following the event, the golfer was diagnosed with low bone turnover, a genetic condition of decreasing bone density.
According to Snedeker, he had suffered four broken ribs in six years, all non-contact injuries. He was placed on medication and took six weeks off. After missing two straight cuts following his return, Snedeker had four top-10 finishes in five months, including a win at the RBC Canadian Open in July. He finished sixth at the Masters, eighth at the Players Championship and 11th at the British Open.
Snedeker has been on the medication for five months but said he is still getting over the side effects of nausea and dizziness, which mostly occurred at night.
“Dizziness for a golfer is not a good feeling,” Snedeker said.
The top 125 players in the point standings begin the playoffs this week at the Barclays at the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. The field will be cut to 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC Boston the following week. The top 70 will advance to the BMW Championship outside Chicago and the final 30 will move on to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Snedeker was the only rookie to play in the Tour Championship in 2007, the first year of the PGA Tour playoffs. Seven years later, he counts his FedEx Cup trophy as one of his most prized possessions. The titles won here last year have left a lasting impression.
“More than anything else, it gave me a lot of peace with who I am as a golfer, like I have a place in the game right now, like I’m not just somebody going through the motions as a tour pro anymore,” Snedeker said. “I’m at a place where I can sit back and say I’ve accomplished something really special here. Whenever I get in a tight situation on a golf course now … I have a calmness and easiness to me that I didn’t have before and a sense of belief in myself.
“I think it has transferred to my whole life. I’m a much more relaxed person off the golf course now. I feel like I’m just a happier person that I accomplished something I set out to do as a kid. I’m not chasing something anymore. I feel like I’ve accomplished it.”