A 68 can cure Masters hangover

Times Staff Writer

LA JOLLA -- There is almost certainly too much real estate between him and Tiger Woods to make up today, but Brandt Snedeker covered all the territory he could Saturday at Torrey Pines.

Snedeker, the boyish 27-year-old whose unfailing smile flashed across TV screens even as his game blew up in Sunday’s final pairing at this year’s Masters, shot the best score in the third round, a three-under-par 68 that took him from seven over par to four and a tie for 15th place.

He has a history at Torrey Pines. In his first full season on the PGA Tour last year, he shot a 61 in the opening round of the Buick Invitational on the way to finishing third.


The smile almost never leaves his face, even when events on the course call for a few mumbled expletives and a tossed club here and there. He remained openly upbeat throughout the Masters, even when he shot a hefty 77 while paired with Trevor Immelman in the last group to finish tied for third.

The smiles, though, ended shortly after he finished that round and left the scoring trailer.

“I had a great time all week, but I didn’t realize how much the tournament meant to me,” he said. “And Sunday after I came out of the trailer, it really hit me. I saw my family and the whole week kind of came out. I just let it all out, started crying, but that was a good thing.”

It took him several weeks to recover, though that also surprised him.

“I was in a good frame of mind, I just didn’t realize how tired I was, how much the week had taken out of me,” he said. “Trevor and I have talked about it; he had been through it before. Last week in Memphis was the first time I got my mind right.”

After the Masters, Snedeker finished 53rd, 55th, then missed two cuts before finishing tied for 35th at the Stanford St. Jude a week ago.

And now he’s playing in another major.

“I love tough courses; I love majors,” he said. “They really get me excited.”

Saturday, he had a plan that in most ways worked. He had an early tee time, before the wind kicked up and while the greens were moist and smooth.


“I was very excited this morning,” he said, “where you can go off early and shoot a good number, then hope the wind kicks up and sit back and hopefully watch the carnage in the afternoon.”

He said it, of course, with a smile.

Tiger’s extra eyes

Woods’ two monster putts for eagles on the back nine had big breaks. He was asked whether he was relying on his caddie, Steve Williams, to help him read putts more than usual.

“I am, yeah. . . . Normally I don’t here. But these greens are at a different speed and they’re breaking a little bit more and these slopes are accentuated just a little bit more, and I just wanted to make sure on some of these reads that I’m not off.”

Certainly seems to be working.

The impossible dream?

Rocco Mediate knows full well that even though he’s within two shots of Woods, getting past him simply might not be possible.

“It will take a perfect day,” he said, “a perfectly clean day for me, making five or six birdies and no bogeys to win this golf tournament. And that still might not do it. You never know. But it will take something crazy.”

Course assessment

Phil Mickelson, who shot a 76 that included a quadruple-bogey nine on the 13th hole, had only good things to say about the course, if not his game:


“I think that this has been the best U.S. Open setup I’ve ever seen. I know I’m a little biased, I’m from here, but the course -- here I am nine over par saying this -- is the fairest setup I’ve ever seen.”

No work, hard play

Englishman Paul Casey had no comment about remarks from Vijay Singh in the British press that British golfers aren’t winning major championships because they don’t work hard enough and are in a comfort zone. But he did have something to say about the Brits’ work ethic.

“My work rate is absolutely fine,” he said. “Vijay’s clearly is more than most other people. . . . I think overall the British guys are working very hard.

“I think we have the desire and the hunger.”

Tony Jacklin was the last Englishman to win the U.S. Open, in 1970. Lee Westwood, one shot off the lead, gives the English their best shot in some time at the Open. He and Woods will be paired in the final group today, teeing off at 1:30.

Question of the week

Casey, unhappy after shooting a 76 that put him 12 over par, was succinct when asked about his putting:

Q: It has not just been your stroke then, it has been the humbly, bumbly, up-and-down, ping-pong-ball nature of the putting surfaces here?


A: Correct.

Chip shots

Total purse for the Open is $7.5 million, with a record $1.35 million going to the winner. Angel Cabrera, who missed the cut this year, made $1.26 million for winning last year. . . . Michael Thompson of Tucson is the low amateur at seven over par. Amateur Rickie Fowler of Murrieta shot 76 and is at 12 over. . . . No word until this morning on whether the USGA will set up the 14th hole, listed as 435 yards, as a 277-yard driveable par four.