PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Brandt Snedeker won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two years ago and moved to a career-best No. 4 in the world, making him the highest-ranked American behind only Tiger Woods.
Snedeker now is one spot behind Woods in the ranking, and that’s not a good place to be.
He showed up at Pebble Beach at No. 63 in the world, painfully aware of all the spots he no longer can go if he doesn’t get his game turned around quickly. For starters, Snedeker is not eligible for the Masters, which he hasn’t missed in five years. He might not get in the World Golf Championship at Doral, which he has played the last three years.
“I’ve gotten used to a certain schedule and I’m not in any of those tournaments I’m used to this year,” Snedeker said Friday after taking a share of the lead at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a bogey-free 67 at Spyglass Hill. “So it’s no fun not being eligible for the Masters and not playing World Golf Championships.”
It’s extra motivation, and he took nothing for granted at the start of the year that he would turn his game around.
The last two days have been encouraging.
Snedeker got his putter working on the poa annua greens of Monterey Peninsula and Spyglass Hill, and keeping bogeys off his card on Friday was important. It allowed him to join Matt Jones, who had a 66 at Spyglass, atop the leaderboard going into the weekend.
They were at 12-under 131 and both play Pebble Beach on Saturday.
Justin Hicks shot a 68 at Monterey Peninsula and was one shot behind.
John Daly, who started the second round one shot behind and briefly was tied for the lead when he birdied his opening hole at Monterey Peninsula, didn’t make a birdie over his last 11 holes and shot a 72. He dropped into a tie for 37th and will have to play well Saturday at Spyglass to avoid missing the cut for the 11th straight time at this event.
Scoring has been low, which was to be expected with barely any breeze and enough sunshine to make the ball go farther through a combination of warm air and firmer than usual fairways. The top 60 and ties make the cut, and 60th place was at 4-under par.
Snedeker and Jones now head to Pebble Beach, along with the celebrity rotation, and their outlook was different.
“If the greens firm up, Pebble is going to play the hardest because they’re such small greens,” said Jones, who won the Shell Houston Open last year for his first PGA Tour title. “If you’re not hitting your irons well enough, you’re going to struggle out there.”
Snedeker always felt that was the key to getting into contention and to winning.
“The years I’m playing good, it seems like it comes down to how you play Pebble for me the last two days,” he said. “When the weather is good, you need to be able to get after it and shoot a low round. And the way the scores are right now and the weather forecast over the weekend, it’s going to take … somewhere around 20-under par to win this golf tournament. So I’ve got to look at 7- to 10-under par the next couple days to win. Can’t take the foot off the gas pedal.”
FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel, who hasn’t finished in the top 20 this season, had a 65 at Spyglass Hill and was part of a large group two shots behind. The biggest move of the day belonged to Torrey Pines winner Jason Day, who wasn’t ever sure he would play.
Day said he took his son to the emergency room with a stomach ailment, which then was passed to his wife and then to him. The Australian wasn’t sure he could play 30 minutes before his tee time, and then he posted a 62 at Monterey Peninsula.
That put him only three shots out of the lead, along with Jim Furyk (70) and Nick Watney (69), who both played at Spyglass.
No one needs to get it in gear like Snedeker.
He had only four top 10s all of last year and fell out of the top 50. After missing the cut in his 2015 debut at the Humana Challenge, Snedeker has taken baby steps in Phoenix and San Diego and appears to be hitting his stride.
“I haven’t been competitive in a while,” Snedeker said. “So I just need to get myself back in contention more, give myself some chances to win, and all that stuff will take care of itself. Hopefully I can keep it going. And typically on any streaks, I just run them out awhile and that’s my plan. Just play until I can’t play anymore.”
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