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Brandt Snedeker's 'experimental' surgery sounds like the most painful thing ever

May 31, 2023

Brandt Snedeker and Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, walk during the Golden Bear Pro-Am prior to the 2023 Memorial Tournament.

Andy Lyons

A painful—and flukish—sternum injury caused Brandt Snedeker to make an extreme "quality-of-life decision" late last year. And now that his pain has subsided, he's hoping his quality of golf comes back as well.

Snedeker will make his 2023 PGA Tour debut at this week's Memorial Tournament after undergoing what he described as an "experimental" procedure in December. The nine-time PGA Tour winner had a manubrium joint stabilization performed by Dr. Burton Elrod, a Nashville-based orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon.

"Luckily, everything kind of went the way it was supposed to," Snedeker said at his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday. "Took a bone out of my hip and cut my sternum open and kind of created a new sternum in a sense. It is way more stable and hopefully does not cause me pain. So, so far, so good."

Wait, what? Moments later, Snedeker was asked to elaborate on a procedure he says has only been done one other time—and boy, does it sound painful.

"They took a bone about the size of my thumb out of my hip and they cut my sternum open and kind of cut across it and made a huge incision," Snedeker said. "They dialed out about the size of my pinkie on my lower part of the sternum and upper part and put that bone in the middle of 'em and kind of created a dowel almost like thing. And then wrapped it with bone putty and paste and tried to kind of let it heal and reattach itself. So kind of broke my sternum on purpose, cut my sternum open and then kind of reattached it."

Oh, that's it? As you can imagine, such a procedure required a lengthy rehab. Snedeker said he basically did 16 weeks of "just sitting still pretty much" before finally playing 18 holes again on April 21. He revved up his practice a couple weeks later.

"I was like I need to be able to have the practice sessions that I had beforehand. So I need to be able to hit 400 balls in a setting for four hours straight," Snedeker said. "And know that it can hold up to it. That was impossible the last three or four years. I just couldn't do it. I would be in so much pain I had to stop. The playing was the least of my worries."

Snedeker said his manubrium joint instability is a rare case, especially since there was no traumatic event that caused it. His chest first started really bothering him when he withdrew from the 2017 British Open.

"I felt like I broke my sternum. I came home and had X-rays, MRIs, all that stuff done," said Snedeker, whose most recent win came at the 2018 Wyndham Championship when he opened with a 59. "And that's where I started, they started seeing the problem. There was no solution. It was like, Okay, we're just going to manage it for as long as we can."

The 42-year-old Snedeker will play the rest of the season under a minor medical exemption and through sponsor exemptions. If he doesn't keep his PGA Tour card, he'll be able to use past champion and lifetime money list exemptions next season. "We'll kind of cross that bridge when we get to it," Snedeker said.

But for now, he's just glad to have made it to Muirfield Village for the PGA Tour's latest designated event.

"I'll have some stiffness and soreness and that kind of stuff that's to be expected," Snedeker said. "I mean, I got my chest cut open, so it's going to be sore. But no pain or no sharp tingling or anything like that."