SAN DIEGO — With his glove tucked in his back pocket and a putter in his hand, Brandt Snedeker walked off the green pumping his arms to celebrate a six-shot comeback to win the Farmers Insurance Open. That was the only part of his victory that looked normal.
He was on the practice green, not the 18th green.
Snedeker never hit a shot Monday.
Having delivered one of the great closing rounds on the PGA Tour on Sunday, all he could do was wait to see if it was good enough when the wind-blown tournament concluded before no spectators because of safety concerns for all the debris on the South Course at Torrey Pines.
The jangled nerves came from watching the forecast, and then the telecast. Snedeker finally went to the putting green and figured the crowd’s reaction would let him know if K.J. Choi had made birdie on the 18th to force a playoff. But then he realized there was no crowd.
"I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a champion here again, how unbelievable the last 48 hours have been," said Snedeker, the first player in more than five years to make the cut on the number and win the tournament. "Everything worked out perfectly for me. You cannot make up the extreme events that had to happen for me to have this chance, and they all fell in line perfectly."
It started with Snedeker.
In gusts that consistently topped 40 mph and peaked at over 50 mph, he played the final 17 holes Sunday without a bogey and closed with a 3-under 69, which was nearly nine shots better than the field. The average score (77.9) was the highest for the fourth round at a regular PGA Tour event since the tour began keeping such statistics in 1983.
Snedeker won at 6-under 282, the highest winning scores at Torrey Pines since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
Shortly after he finished Sunday, play was stopped for the third and final time, and for good reason. The relentless wind toppled more than dozen trees across Torrey Pines, including a 60-foot eucalyptus that fell across the left edge of the 15th fairway some 40 yards short of the green.
The forecast was for 25 mph win out of the opposite direction. That was good for Snedeker.
When he woke up Monday morning to start the waiting game, there was hardly any wind at all. That was bad for Snedeker.
But after another two-hour delay to clean up debris, the wind showed up at just the right time and made the conditions just as tough — maybe even tougher for the final groups — as it was on Sunday.
Snedeker hit a wedge for his second shot on the 15th. Choi couldn’t reach the green with a 3-wood.
With the final five holes playing into the wind, birdies were scarce.
Jimmy Walker, who was leading at 7-under par through 10 holes when play was halted on Sunday, made four bogeys over his eight holes and shot 77. Choi, who was at 6 under (and tied with Snedeker) made only one bogey, and it was enough to cost him. He couldn’t reach the 14th with a fairway metal — another wedge hole on Sunday — and narrowly missed a 6-foot par putt. Choi closed with a 77 and was runner-up.
Kevin Streelman had a 74, with two late bogeys ending his hopes, and finished third.
"The way the wind blew and made those last five holes play so tough on those guys, I feel bad for them," Snedeker said. "They got the raw end of the stick this morning. But that’s just the way golf goes, and luckily enough, I played good enough yesterday to get the job done. So it’s a special feeling to say the least."
It was the second time Snedeker has won at Torrey Pines, and he needed help both times. Four years ago, he was in the media centre as the runner-up until Kyle Stanley made a triple bogey from the fairway on the 18th hole, and Snedeker beat him in a playoff to complete a seven-shot comeback.
This time, he needed help from the elements.
Snedeker made the cut on the number Saturday and was tied for 27th going into the final round. The wicked weather produced 23 rounds in the 80s, including an 87 by Scott Brown, who shared the 54-hole lead with Choi and wound up in a tie for 49th.
"It’s just one of those fluke things," Snedeker said. "There’s no way you can control the weather, no way you can predict how it’s going to be. Sometimes you get the raw end and sometimes you get the better end, and I obviously got the better end this week."
He did his part with a great closing round on Sunday. He was rewarded with a trophy on Monday.