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Snedeker Survives, Stymies Donald

Johnie Freatman, Staff Writer |
April 26, 2011 | 9:27 a.m. PDT

Snedeker, before winning the 2011 Heritage Tournament. (Keith Allison via Creative Commons)
Snedeker, before winning the 2011 Heritage Tournament. (Keith Allison via Creative Commons)
Entering the final round of The Heritage, all signs pointed to the day being a coronation for Luke Donald.

The unflappable Englishman held a one-stroke lead and appeared set to cruise to victory and the number one ranking in the world.

However, Brandt Snedeker had other ideas. After a blistering 64 and gutsy play down the stretch marked by multiple clutch putts, Snedeker prevailed over Donald in a thrilling three-hole playoff for the second victory of his PGA Tour career.

Snedeker entered the day six strokes back, but with Donald leading he wasn’t thinking a win was possible.

“I woke up with no expectations whatsoever,” Snedeker said. “I was more worried with how I was going to get to New Orleans on Monday than I was with what this round entailed.”

What the “round entailed” was a frenetic finish. Snedeker was one shot behind when he reached the 18th hole and it appeared he would need to make birdie to have a chance at a playoff.  He did just that, rolling in a 12-footer. With Snedeker teeing off hours earlier than the leaders, he was left to see if his 12 under figure would hold up.

“It was brutal,” Snedeker of the wait. “I don’t want them to do bad, but I don’t want them to do great, either.”

Multiple players folded under the pressure. Ricky Barnes was once tied for the lead but a pair of back-nine bogeys derailed his hopes. Defending champion Jim Furyk was one behind entering the day but ended up shooting a disastrous 76, including two double bogeys on the last four holes. “I just kind of got on a bad roll and it snowballed on me today”, said Furyk.

Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, a South Carolina native and the crowd favorite, played brilliantly in shooting a 68 but missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have qualified him for the playoff.

After Gainey’s miss, it was clear that the tournament would be won by either Snedeker or Donald. Donald birdied the thirteenth hole to draw even and parred the last five holes, including two sterling up and downs on 17 and 18, to force a playoff.

On the first playoff hole, both players poured in birdie putts to extend the dual. After matching pars on the next hole, Donald found trouble by hitting into a greenside bunker on the third playoff hole. To make matters worse, his ball “buried.” All he could do was blast out to the left fringe, about 15 feet from the hole.

After Snedeker safely two-putted for par, Donald had one last chance. Though his chip was on-line the entire way, it lipped out of the hole, giving the win to Snedeker.

“It’s a storybook ending really, to be playing Luke in a playoff, to even have a chance to win was exciting for me,” said Snedeker.

Donald was left to contemplate his latest close call on the PGA Tour. Though he has three wins, the Heritage marked his 12th career runner-up on Tour. Perhaps never were the stakes higher.

“It was going to be some big rewards if I won today,” said Donald. “But I’ll try and find the positives from this week and move on.”

Snedeker was left to savor a win made all the more special by the recent birth of his first child, Lily. “There’s no secret that that’s probably the reason I won, was having that distraction, having that comfort at home,” Snedeker said.

This was also Snedeker’s first victory since his collapse in the final round of the 2008 Masters, after which he memorably struggled with his emotions. The significance of the plaid jacket, given to The Heritage winner, was not lost on him.

“I said there are two jackets I want to earn in my lifetime, a Green jacket and a plaid jacket,” said Snedeker. “I’ve got one.”



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