By Alex Myers
One of golf's most discussed topics early in 2014 is Tiger Woods' slow start, but the struggles of another American star have been relatively overlooked. A year ago, Brandt Snedeker was the undisputed hottest player in the world when he won at Pebble Beach to reach No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Now, he's having a hard time even sniffing a leader board.
Snedeker's rough stretch continued last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He shot a second-round 64, but then made one birdie on the weekend at TPC Scottsdale, which isn't exactly U.S. Open tough. He had no birdies and eight bogeys during a Sunday 79 as he slipped to T-61.
That finish falls surprisingly in line with his other four starts this season: T-55, T-11, T-58, and a missed cut. Oh yeah, and the T-11 came against a 30-man field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. His last two tournaments have featured a 77 and a 79 in six rounds. Quite a difference from his sizzling start to 2013 in which his first five starts produced that win at Pebble, two runner-ups and a third place.
So what's the difference? Snedeker can place most of the blame on his normally-brilliant putting. He's finished in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting in four of the past five years -- including leading the stat in 2012 -- but so far this year, he ranks just 56th.
It's worth noting that Snedeker suffered a freak knee injury when he fell off a Segway scooter at a corporate outing in November following a T-55 at the HSBC Champions to start the wraparound season. But a busy schedule since returning seems to suggest he's healthy, and if anything, a knee injury should affect his full swing more than his play on the greens.
Snedeker, 33, has battled through myriad health issues throughout his career, including multiple hip surgeries and rib injuries that have caused him to miss time, but the 2012 FedEx Cup champion is coming off the two best years of his career. Certainly, a poor five-tournament stretch isn't reason to panic just yet, but the world's 17th-ranked golfer has a lot of work to do to climb back into the top five.