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Theory met reality on Feb. 8, when Snedeker fired a bogey-free 68 at Spyglass, two of his birdies coming with easy up-and-downs on par-5s. That gave him a share of the second-round lead, and come Sunday he was right where his game plan projected he'd be—on the 18th green at Pebble Beach with Clint Eastwood at his side and a crystal trophy in his hands.
Neither that victory nor his two 2012 triumphs, he promises, will make him forget his limitations. "My goal this year is just to hit greens. I'm not worried about trying to hit a five-iron to three feet. I'm trying to hit it to 30 feet. Get me on the green somewhere, and I'm going to beat people."
He means "most people, most of the time." When Tiger Woods won the Farmers Insurance Open in January, his closest pursuer was Snedeker. When Phil Mickelson ran away with the Waste Management Phoenix Open a week later, the runner-up was—yeah, that same Nashville cat. "Sneds has a reputation for being a very nice Southern boy," says Rose, "but he's got a fierceness to him that I don't think people appreciate."
Not to mention a wicked sense of humor. After his boss's victory at Pebble, Vail texted a doctored photograph to Rose and his caddie, Mark (Fooch) Fulcher, showing them in Snedeker's rearview mirror over the warning, THINGS IN THE MIRROR LOOK CLOSER THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE. "The fact that he's nicked us in the World Ranking isn't lost by either party," says Rose with a smile. "But it's good fun."
Johnson Wagner is another friend who enjoys Snedeker's thrust and parry. "I call him Glass Man because he gets injured all the time," Wagner says, alluding to the rib strains and a couple of career-stalling hip surgeries. "Anyway, I walked up to Sneds on the range at the Greenbrier last year and made some smart-ass comment like, 'Be careful swinging those drivers; you might break another rib.' A couple of minutes later I'm hitting next to him, and he says, 'What's going on with your foot during your follow-through? That's terrible. You better take some video and send it to your coach.'"
Wagner rolls his eyes. "He got totally into my head. I looked at video, and I was panicked about what was going on with my foot. He's good about getting in the last dig."
More than anything, Snedeker's peers are impressed—some might say unsettled—by his air of confidence. It's not the boast-to-the-mirror swagger popularized by sports psychologists, and it's certainly not arrogance. It's the self-assurance of a man who sets reasonable goals and then achieves them, whether it's graduating from Vanderbilt in four years while playing on the golf team, perfecting one of the fastest swings on Tour or merely improving his sand-saves percentage.
"He's been good forever," says Tiger's swing coach, Sean Foley, dismissing the "Brandt Who?" fallacy. "When I went to the University of Nashville, Sneds was the best player in the state by a landslide. He was one of the best players in college." Snedeker became, in fact, the world's top-ranked amateur. Then he was a force on the Nationwide tour (two wins) and an immediate hit on the PGA Tour, where he was the 2007 Rookie of the Year on the strength of six top 10 finishes and a win at the Wyndham Championship.
Mandy Snedeker, wowed by the view of the Tennessee hills from her new infinity pool, mentioned her husband's effortless aplomb. "I said, 'When we met in college, did you ever think we'd be moving into a house like this?' And he said, 'Yeah! That was my plan.'"
Brandt suspects that his straight-line thinking is owed to good parenting (his father, Larry, is a retired lawyer; his mother, Candy, owned a pawnshop) and the fact that all the schools he attended, kindergarten through college, were on the same street (Harding Road/West End Avenue). His personal life remains Nashville-centric, his days at home built around workouts, practice and tickle sessions with two-year-old Lily and her baby brother, Austin. "I've got the best support system in the world," Snedeker says. "I've got two beautiful kids, and I've got a wife who never gives me guilt about anything related to golf."