Pebble Beach, California: FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker finally reaped just reward for his red-hot early form on the PGA Tour this year when he eased to victory by two shots at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday.
Runner-up behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in his two previous starts on the US circuit, the American world number six closed with a seven-under-par 65 to post a tournament record low of 19-under 267.
Co-leader overnight with compatriot James Hahn, Snedeker took control with an eagle on the second hole and never relinquished his grip on a glorious day of late winter sunshine on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula.
American Chris Kirk sank a 16-foot birdie putt at the last for a 66 to finish alone in second, with PGA Tour rookie Hahn (70) a further three strokes back at 14-under in a three-way tie for third.
It was Snedeker’s fifth career victory on the PGA Tour and his second in his last six starts, dating back to the Tour Championship in September when he also landed FedExCup honours.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about what’s happened the last four months,” Snedeker told CBS after sealing victory with a par at the last before pumping his right fist in celebration.
“And to finish the West Coast [swing] off to win this way. It’s such a special place. To win at Pebble Beach on a beautiful day like this ... you can’t make this stuff up. It’s just too perfect.”
Snedeker, who had recorded three top-three finishes in his first four events on the 2013 PGA Tour, said winning a first major title was now his top priority.
“Finishing off a tournament like this with a win, it gives me a ton of confidence going into the Masters, the US Open, all the great venues we have this year,” the 32-year-old said.
“And that’s next on my list. I’ve won five times out here now. The most important thing now is to win majors.”
On a chilly, sun-splashed morning at Pebble Beach, Snedeker moved one stroke in front of playing partner Hahn at 14-under after sinking a four-foot eagle putt at the par-five second.
Hahn, who had missed an eagle chance of his own at the second from seven feet, then lipped out with a five-foot birdie attempt at the third to remain one behind.
Snedeker remained one ahead after he and Hahn both birdied the fourth before being handed a two-shot advantage when his playing partner bogeyed the par-three fifth after finding a greenside bunker off the tee.
Further birdies followed for Snedeker at the sixth and the scenic par-three seventh, where he rolled in a 16-footer, as he moved three strokes clear at 17-under.
The pacesetting American surprisingly bogeyed the par-four ninth, where he three-putted from 22 feet, to reach the turn in four-under 32, two ahead of the chasing pack at 16-under.
Long regarded as one of the game’s best putters, Snedeker immediately rebounded with consecutive birdies, sinking a 26-footer at the 10th and a 16-footer at the 11th to stretch his lead to four shots.
Though Kirk applied pressure with back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14, Snedeker stayed in control with rock solid golf over the closing stretch.
He recorded his sixth birdie of the day at the par-three seventh after hitting a superb seven-iron to 10 feet and coolly sinking the putt, then safely parred the 18th to secure the win.
Snedeker’s closing 65 was his 10th consecutive round under 70 on the PGA Tour, and he will climb to a career-high fourth in the world when the rankings are issued on Monday.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson closed with a level-par 72 to finish a distant 18 shots off the pace, his lowlight of the day a double-bogey at the 18th where he twice hit into the ocean.