Five years ago, Brandt Snedeker spent the worst day of his professional career as his golf game imploded after he was as close as he has ever come to winning the Masters.
It is at the top of his bucket list. The Nashville pro would rather win the Masters than any tournament on the planet. It is the tournament young golfers raised in the South revere above all others.
So when Snedeker's dream was crushed on that Masters Sunday, 2008, it ripped his guts out. The tears wouldn't stop, no matter how hard he tried to control his emotions. You see, you only get so many chances to win a green jacket and the Vanderbilt graduate knew he had let one slip through his fingers.
Here we are in the present. He and former Masters champion Angel Cabrera are tied atop the leaderboard at 7-under par through three rounds.
By no means is the 43-year-old Cabrera Snedeker's only competition. The leaderboard is as crowded as Ladies Night at a singles bar.
Eleven golfers are within five shots of Snedeker and Cabrera when they tee it up Sunday. Other than Cabrera and Tiger Woods, none of the others have a Masters championship on their portfolio.
Four-time Masters champion Woods is trying to prove he deserves to be the top-ranked golfer in the World rankings and he is capable of pulling off a miracle in the pines as he thrives on improbable challenges. Or, at least he used to. He hasn't won a major in five years and the last green jacket he won was seven years ago. Woods was assessed a controversial two-shot penalty Saturday morning on a rules violation that occurred during Friday's round on No. 15.
But this Masters is very much up for grabs and it will play out on a course that has been noticeably void of loud ovation this week. The field has struggled with swirling winds and Snedeker was proud that he started with 12 straight pars Saturday.
“That's not a bad score. I don't care what you say, on this golf course, 12 straight pars to start the day, that's not a bad score,'' Snedeker said. He came on to play the final six holes in 3-under par.
Snedeker has traveled the peaks and valleys on the PGA Tour. Each disappointment has made him stronger. Despite missing five weeks due to a rib injury, and missing the cut on the two tournaments he played after returning, his confidence is where it needs to be.
“I've spent 32 years of my life getting ready for (Sunday). It's all been a learning process and I am completely, 100 percent sure that I'm ready to handle it, no matter what happens,'' Snedeker said.
“I'm going to be disappointed if I don't win, period. I'm not here to get a good finish. I'm not here to finish Top 5. I'm here to win and that's all I'm going to be focused on.''
To reach his goal, Snedeker has to keep his drives in the fairway (34 of 42, 80%) in first three rounds and keep hitting greens in regulation (39 of 54, 72.2%). That allows him to play to his strength, which is putting. Through three rounds, Snedeker has averaged. 1.59 putts on the greens.
He says he has put the 2008 debacle behind him.
“I had no clue what I was doing in 2008, none,'' he admitted. “I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play the golf course the way you're supposed to play it.
“I have a completely clear focus of what I need to do (Sunday), a clear set of goals that I need to hit. If I do that, I love my chance to win this golf tournament.''
Brandt Snedeker has waited eight years to return to this stage. He wants nothing more than to turn past tears of failure into tears of joy.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.