CARNOUSTIE — The gamblers among you, out there in golfdotcomland, will surely recognize this sweet moment, when you slide your tender one way and the lady under the fluorescent light slides you your computer-generated betting slip and you know with certitude, odds and logic be damned, that you have a winner. It doesn’t even seem fair.
And so it was for me Monday night, at a smoke-free betting shop here on Dundee Street, when I got 100 to 1 odds on Brandt Snedeker to win this 147th Open Championship. I put down only 20 pounds because more than that would look greedy and greed, despite what Michael Douglas says in “Wall Street,” is not good. It killed the cat.
Open golf requires controlling the height and shape of your iron shots and putting with enough oomph to get your many long, slow putts all the way to the hole, which is why Tom Watson won five Opens between 1975 and 1983. Snedeker—SNID-er-kirr in the brogue of those old TV spots he made with Watson—has earned a good living for a long time hitting sweeping, shallow-divot irons on the face and rapping in putts with a distinctive pop putting stroke that brings to mind short-wand geniuses like Bobby Locke and Dave Stockton and Tom Watson his own self.
Snedeker is 37 and Carnoustie is a course for grownups. (OK: I’m thinking of Hogan, in his only Open appearance, when he won at Carnoustie in ‘53 at age 40.) Snedeker has won eight times on Tour and you have to figure, like Justin Leonard and Tom Lehman and Bill Rogers before him, he’s good enough and lucky enough to win at least one of the Ancient Four. At least, that’s what I’m betting on.
Plus, I like him. Always good to bet on somebody you can root for.
I’ve liked Snedeker since he took his talents to the last twosome on the last day of the 2008 Masters, the year after he was Rookie of the Year. He played the first two rounds at that Masters with Watson and shot 69 and 68. Watson liked what he saw, beyond the low scores. He liked Snedeker’s pace of play, his confidence and praised particularly his imagination. In the fourth round Snedeker shot 77 (and still finished only four shots behind Trevor Immelman), cried memorably and manfully and drove to Hilton Head with his fiancé.
It was around then that he revealed his hobby, “sitting in airports and watching people go by.” Can you think of another golfer who would think of such a thing and share it? I bought him breakfast at a diner in Hilton Head, the good one on Business 278, the one where you’ll see Mike Cowan as often as not. Snedeker told me about his brother going to his prom with Reese Witherspoon, and the heart it takes to run a pawn shop, which is what his mother did for years in Nashville. Snedeker understands people and money — a powerful combination.
I showed him my betting slip when he finished his practice round on Tuesday. Zach Johnson was in the group in front of him and Darren Clarke behind him. Two jug winners right there.
“Hundred to one?” Brandt said. “I like those odds!”
“That’s what the lady at the shop said — she was surprised to see you go off that long.”
We talked about the makeup of his bag: 12 irons, and I’m counting the putter, because a putter will be the go-to chipping club this week at Carnoustie. Snedeker expects to hit a few drivers, though not many. He didn’t know if his 3-wood would ever come out. He’s never been one to carry hybrids but his 5-wood has the week off. “This week is about flying your irons to certain spots on the golf course,” he said. He said he expected to hit his 2-iron well over 30 times over four days. It can go 300 yards, he said, including 70 yards of ground time.
“My normal 6-iron goes about 160,” I told him. “I hit one at Monifieth last night that went 230.”
“How’s that course?” Snedeker asked. I’ve heard it’s good.”
“Really good. Brown and hard.” The fairways are like abandoned airport runways that have buckled in the dry summer heat. They are excellent. Brandt talked about the need to read colors well when approaching the Carnoustie greens. “Brown is one speed, light green another, dark green another,” he said.
“Do you even think about grain when it’s brown?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said. “It’s just dead grass.” We talked about grass. Grass is at the heart of the golfing experience.
“This is the opposite of Shinnecock Hills,” Snedeker said. He majored in communications at Vanderbilt and, as a golf talker, he’s nearly at the Colin Montgomerie/Geoff Ogilvy level. “At Shinnecock, the fairways were green and the greens were brown. I think they have it right over here.”
Snedeker loves Open golf but it was a year ago, at Royal Birkdale, that he had to withdraw because of a peculiar injury, a swollen sternum that caused him intense pain and made breathing difficult at times. He took a four-month break from the Tour. During it he said he received three text messages from his fellow players, including one from Tiger Woods. “There was the old Tiger, who was nice, but you couldn’t really get to know him,” Snedeker said. “And there’s the new Tiger, who you can’t get off the phone. All he wants to do is talk about golf.” Ryder Cup golf in particular.
Snedeker likes Tiger’s chances this week. But not as much as his own. His best finish since returning to the Tour late last year came at his last event, at the Greenbrier earlier this month, where he closed with a 64 and finished in a tie for third.
I expect he will improve on that finish this week. The lady in the betting shop wanted to know if I wanted to place a box bet, where I could get paid if Snedeker finished second or third or fourth. But why on earth would I want to do that and dilute my 100 to one odds?
“I’ll see you Sunday night,” I said. The winner’s press conference.
“I’ll buy you a case of wine,” he said. The victory celebration.
“I’ll buy you dinner.”
Two-thousand British pounds is equal to $2,600 at home. But my plan is to spend the winnings here.
Michael Bamberger may be reached at email@example.com.