Snedeker Returning to Action this Week at Bay Hill

Brandt Snedeker was the hottest golfer on the planet in mid-February. Before winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on February 10, the 32-year-old Nashville native had racked up two runner-ups, a third-place and five top-25 finishes in five starts in the young 2013 season, earning $2,859,920 and soaring to the top of the FedEx Cup standings.

But Snedeker hasn't played since mid-February due to a rib injury he suffered in the final round at Pebble Beach. Despite the pain, he gutted out a 7-under-par 65 to edge Chris Kirk by two shots.

After accepting the $1.17 million winner's check, Snedeker headed home and he's stayed there for over a month.

Snedeker was forced to rest the injury, which turned out to be a strained intercostal rib muscle. He didn't swing a club for three weeks, opting to lay low despite being in the midst of the hottest stretch in his career.

But Snedeker has healed and is returning to action for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The $6.2 million PGA Tour stop begins Thursday at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando. Tiger Woods is the defending champion.

"I've just been sitting at home waiting for it to get healthy," said Snedeker, who despite the prolonged absence, still leads the FedEx Cup standings and the Tour's money list. "That can be anywhere from two weeks to be back out playing, to eight weeks, depending on the severity of it and how you heal."

Snedeker has had problems with rib strains before. But his previous problems came on the left side of his body; the latest injury was to his right side, which affected him - especially on the final four holes at Pebble Beach - through impact and follow-through.

But he's good to go this week. "I'm at five weeks off right now. So it feels great. I spent probably could have, if I wanted to push it, play last week, but I thought I'd take an extra week to make sure I'm healthy and just excited to be back out."

Here's what else the five-time Tour winner - with three of those titles coming since late January 2012 in the Farmers Insurance Open - had to tell reporters during a Q&A Tuesday evening.

MODERATOR: Like to welcome Brandt Snedeker. Brandt, welcome to the Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard. If you want to give some opening comments. We know you've been off since your win at Pebble Beach. Talk about how you're feeling, what you've been up to, and we'll have some questions.

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, it's good to be back. Obviously, after Pebble, I found that I had an intercostal rib muscle strain. Those are kind of tricky, to say the least. So I've just been sitting at home waiting for it to get healthy. That can be anywhere from two weeks to be back out playing to eight weeks, depending on the severity of it and how you heal.

I'm at five weeks off right now. So it feels great. I spent probably could have, if I wanted to push it, play last week, but I thought I'd take an extra week to make sure I'm healthy and just excited to be back out. I played this morning. The golf course is in great shape, and my golf game feels like it's kind of where it was, so I'm excited to see what this week holds and the rest of the year holds.

Q. How much of a concern is the injury still?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: None. I feel completely healthy. I'm going to have a little soreness in there and that is to be expected, but no concern whatsoever. Hit some balls out of the rough this morning, practiced all weekend four straight days, no issues whatsoever.

Q. Brandt, when they told you two to eight weeks, were you worried The Masters would be problematic?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I was, yeah, I was. This is an injury you don't want to try to play through because it can get worse, and, obviously, The Masters is something that you don't want to miss due to an injury. So this is kind of why I took my time. I made sure that it was healthy. I'm glad I healed the way I did, and I'm glad I'm back. But Masters was a concern.

Q. And you had a rib injury last year. Is it related?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: It's different. This is a new injury. I've had some rib injuries in the past. They were all kind of cracks, and they were all on the right side. This is a muscle strain on my left side. Needless to say, it's concerning that something like that keeps happening, but completely separate and new injury.

Q. Do the doctors understand why it keeps happening?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I had about every test run you can possibly have run, and the good news is I'm completely healthy. The bad news is I'm completely healthy. So I don't know why it keeps happening. I was kind of hoping that something would creep up that would lead me to see why this keeps happening, and nothing kind of came up. So just kind of have to chalk it up to bad luck, I guess, and get back healthy.

Q. Just to keep on the injury theme here. The hip thing was at the end of I want to say '10, '11?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I had two hip surgeries in 2011, at the end of 2011 and end of 2010, so '11 season, beginning of the '11 '12 season.

Q. When you get over the ball, is that why you twitch your hips before you pull the trigger or is that something you've been doing since you were three?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: That's just kind of I have a tendency to set up with my hips open, and that's a reminder to stay square. It's more of a tick, I guess.

Q. Did you always plan to play in Houston or did you add that?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I added Houston. I was not planning on playing Houston. Steve has been great to me. He's one of the few guys that gave me a sponsor exemption when I turned pro, and I always wanted to get back there and play, and this kind of worked out perfect.

Q. Brandt, how bad was it bothering you at Pebble Beach? Are you sitting there about to win the tournament, feeling great about your game, but worrying am I making this thing worse?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, it was a concern. It was definitely not feeling great on Sunday. It was something that I could play through, but in the back of my mind, I wondered how severe it was, and if it was something that I'd be able to play through and take a week off or it could be something more severe. Unfortunately, with these things, people have had them, and they'll tell you just don't know. You can wake up one day and feel great. The next day you can wake up and feel like somebody punched you in the gut and you feel terrible. So it was a concern. It's been tough being away because I was playing so good, and missed a lot of great tournaments and great venues that I love. But I'm back healthy and excited to have a chance to play in the Masters.

Q. Along those lines, where in the swing did it bother you?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: It was more impact to follow through. Just kind of the jarring motion of making impact through on the left side. So it probably didn't affect me until the last four or five holes, and that's when it started firing up a little bit and letting me know something was wrong.

Q. In terms of the pain level, what was the worst it got on a 1 to 10 scale?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: The couple days after, it was not fun. I would say 6 or 7. It would hurt to breath, hurt to move. But within three or four days, it calmed down and was back to manageable. Just, unfortunately, kind of hung there for a couple of weeks. It wouldn't get better past that where I could get back and rotate.

Q. How long did you go without touching a club, and maybe walk us through the last couple of weeks?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, I took three straight weeks completely off, didn't touch it. Then started praying a little bit about ten days ago, and really came back with no pain, no issues. Kind of gradually built it up to where I was able to play the last three or four days, no pain, no issues, and that's why I decided to come here.

Q. How did you play, and did you feel rusty? Are you concerned about being rusty leading into Augusta?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I was definitely rusty beginning of last week. And as I've played more and more, it started to feel better and better. I don't think you're ever a hundred percent ready to go until you play a week and knock the rust off. But I'm swinging really good at it. My ball striking day was great. Putting feels okay. The places I need to work are short game to make sure they're sharp. The greens here are very firm; the rough is very thick. That is something you can only get used to with repetitions. I'll work on that this afternoon, tomorrow in the Pro Am, and, hopefully, Thursday it should be relatively okay.

Q. Being on such a great run and then being hurt, what are your expectations this week just coming back after so much time, but knowing that you've played so well?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, I have very high expectations. I think that I'm very confident in what I'm doing. I'm fresh. I'm probably the freshest guy on the PGA Tour right now because I haven't played in five weeks, and I'm probably one of the few guys that is really excited about the next stretch of golf. So I feel great about it. I just want to give myself a chance on Sunday. Get up there and have a chance on Sunday with a great field like this would be a lot of fun.

Q. What do you like about Bay Hill? What are the things that you think you can do best here?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, the golf course is in fantastic shape. Probably the best I've ever seen it. The thing I love about Bay Hill is that you really have to drive the ball really well here. You drive the ball really well here, and you can definitely have a great week. I think it's one of the strengths of my game. Then the greens are fantastic. They're fast. They're firm. It's really going to test guys. You're going to have to make a lot of 5 to 8 footers for par this week because they're so firm and fast, and that's kind of where I shine. So I'm looking forward to seeing how this week plays out.

Q. What does that say about the state of American golf that every event on Tour this year has been won by an American, and do you expect that to carry over into the majors?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I think it shows how deep American golf is right now. I think we've seen this coming for a while. I think you'd be naive to think that Americans are going to sweep all the majors and keep winning like this. There are just too many great players throughout the world. I'm excited. It's great to see us get off to the kind of start we have. It will be interesting to see if we can maintain it. It's been an unbelievable start for Americans. That many young guys winning, that many guys that wouldn't have not before close the deal. Last year you saw the year where guys couldn't hold the lead, and this year you see where guys can't give up the lead. So it's a different momentum swing, it looks like. It's great to see guys finish off tournaments the right way.

Q. What did you do during that time off? Secondly, is there any place in the back of your mind that you worry that could come back?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I didn't do a whole lot. It was kind of nice to be home. I spent a lot of time with the family and the kids. Really watched a lot of TV and got stuff done around the house, so that's kind of nice. Injuries with me are always a concern, unfortunately. That's just kind of in the back of my mind always. Got to be conscious of how many balls I hit, how I practice and that kind of stuff, because I don't want to wear myself out. I don't want to leave myself open to re-injuring this injury or doing something like that.

Q. Unofficially, you were probably the hottest player in the game when you got hurt. Since then you've probably lost that title. How antsy are you to get it back?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I could care a less about getting it back. I just want to get in position to have a good weekend again. I am not playing anywhere near as well as Tiger Woods is right now. So we can answer that question and get that out of the way. He's playing unbelievable golf. That being said, I'd love to see him on Sunday afternoon and see how I stack up against him. He's playing unbelievable. He's sharp right now. I've got to develop that again. Hopefully I might be able to do it in the next couple days. But file like my long game is where I want it to be. It's just a matter of getting my short game and mental acuity back to where I can save shots and think around the golf course the right way. That comes with repetition, you can't conjure it up. So we'll see how it goes this week.

Q. When you were at home with the kids or getting things done around the house, were there things you had to do to make sure you didn't do to aggravate it?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, it's tough. You can't pick up your kids. And my daughter has learned to say a couple key phrases that tug on the heart strings. So, either, "Daddy hold me," or "Miss you daddy," when you leave the house, so it was nice to be home with them for a while. I couldn't lift anything for a couple of weeks, so it was just kind of - I hate to say it. I wish I had something exciting that I did. But when you're injured and you're home, you can't do a whole lot. So it was pretty much making sure I didn't do anything to re-injure it.

Q. I had a couple questions about the unusual competitive dynamics out here. Why do you see it in golf more than most sports, guys helping each other out with advice? Guys who you're trying to beat. Why does that play out here?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Just because I think golf, from most sports, is you have a bunch of friends out here. These are guys you've grown up playing with your whole life. You see guys struggling. But no matter how good it might be going for you, everybody's been there. Everybody's been there with their struggling or searching and you have a friend or confidante that you can go to and ask what do you see differently in my stroke? You've seen me play for ten years, or my swing or whatever it may be? We're no different than any amateur at home on the range or a buddy seeing him play, you're going to try to help him out every once in a while. That is kind of the same thing. So I think that's been kind of - I know you're talking about (Steve Stricker) and Tiger. Strick's just that kind of guy. He would help anybody out at any time, especially a guy like Tiger who we've seen thousands of times play together. So I'm sure he probably regrets it now, but at the time it seemed like a great idea.

Q. I was going to ask a hypothetical. Somebody comes up to you in the practice area, and you're fairly certain that advice might get you beat on Sunday, do you still give it up?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, for sure. At the end of the day, you want to beat somebody at their best. You don't want to beat them at their worst or not at their best.

Q. Brandt, has anyone asked you for advice?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: No. No, that is the great thing about having a really unusual putting stroke is nobody asks about it.

Q. Back to the injury. What was the toughest part? Last year you had a month off with the rib injury. What was the toughest part coming back from that from a golf standpoint?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: It wasn't really - I can't remember. I'm trying to think back. The toughest part was missing the U.S. Open, being at home when that was going on. That was really tough for me to sit there and watch that because that was a place I really wanted to play. But getting back competitive wise, it seemed like I played Greenbrier, and I was really rusty. I probably didn't spend as much time practicing for Greenbrier as I did this past time. Then I go to the British Open a week later and play great. So I tend to come back from these things pretty quickly.

Sometimes rest - sometimes an injury can be a good thing. I got time to rest and sit at home and kind of reevaluate where my year is, and what I need to do. As great as the start of the year was, that's a long time ago. We've got to get refocused and get back into it.

Q. You mentioned the Masters earlier. Obviously, that was on your mind. How much is your perspective, your goals or whatever you want to call it, changed given last year's success and so forth? Where maybe in the past you might have tried to push it or come back earlier? Was the Masters the key factor in terms of this time off?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Yeah, the biggest thing was making sure I was healthy. I wasn't really concerned with one tournament. The Masters is obviously important, but I'm not going to jeopardize the British Open, PGA, the rest of my year on making sure I can play the Masters. I'm in this thing for the next 10 years. I've got to make sure I do the smart stuff for my body going forward. But, that being said, I wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to play the Masters a hundred percent. I didn't want to come back and be 90 percent at the Masters or whatever it may be. So that's kind of my thought process.

Q. What is the most interesting thing that happened to you during the five weeks off?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Man, y'all are trying to make me sound interesting, and I'm just really not that interesting. I guess, we moved. We changed addresses in Nashville. We moved to a new house. That was fun to move my new family and us into a new house. That was a lot of fun to do that with my wife and two kids, so that is probably the most interesting thing that happened.

Q. Fun because you didn't have to lift any boxes?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: Correct. That's my second point. If you're ever going to be injured, it's a great time to move so you don't have to do anything. I actually felt guilty. I watched my wife move a lot of boxes and everybody else moved a lot of boxes, and I told them where to put it and how to unpack it. It was kind of nice. I got to see my wife. This is the first time we moved, so it was fun.

Q. Speaking of American golf, are you in the camp that believes the World Golf ranking might be stacked against American golfers? If so, how would you change it?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: To be quite honest with you, I don't put too much emphasis on the world ranking. I feel like if you go and you play and you play well and you win, all of it takes care of itself. I feel like guys that watch the ranking all the time get too caught up in it. At the end of the day, you're remembered for winning golf tournaments and that kind of stuff. You're not remembered for being the number three golfer in the world. Nobody really cares. That's more for story lines and that kind of stuff to rate people. But I don't get too caught up in it. It's great to say - I've mentioned that I'd like to be number 1 in the world. That's great. But to get there, I have to win a lot of golf tournaments. So that is kind of the way I look at it.

Q. You said a minute ago that Tiger was sharp and et cetera, et cetera, but after the win at Torrey, he had two finishes out of the top 30 and then he won again. Are you just basing that on one tournament? Would you look at him differently than you would Kevin Streelman who was sharp yesterday?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: No. The one thing I don't think you give Tiger enough credit for is every time I see him tee it up, he hits it out of the center of the bat, hits it solidly all the time. That is a very underrated quality. Not very many guys do that. Y'all see it day to day on the range. When guys have an off week, they tend to mis hit it. When Tiger has an off week, it's not like that. He has an off week, and the short game isn't quite where it is. He doesn't make the putts he needs to make or whatever it may be.

So when I say Tiger is sharp, he's hitting it where he looks. His iron play is sharp. You don't shoot his number at Doral without being sharp. That was pretty unbelievable. Those greens are baked out. They were fast. The wind was blowing. it was not an easy golf course as easy as he made it look. So that's what I base it on. I think he has a track record that kind of speaks to that. Any time you have more wins than I have starts, I think you can go ahead and say he earns the benefit of the doubt.

Q. Did you watch golf on TV?

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I watched a lot. I like watching golf on TV. I'm not one of these guys that says I like to get away from it. I'm a fan. Just like everybody else out there, I love watching golf on TV. I like seeing what guys are doing. I had fun watching Tiger at Doral. I had fun watching Streelman last week get his first win. And it's fun to see how my friends are doing and how they're playing.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.