AUGUSTA, Ga. — A 27-year-old Brandt Snedeker found himself playing in the final group Sunday at the Masters in 2008.
That fellow did not play well. He didn't handle the pressure. He didn't craft a plan. He didn't break par. He didn't hold back the tears of disappointment.
Snedeker has learned from that experience enough to become the fifth-ranked player in the world and a Ryder Cup participant.
Five years later, Snedeker is in the same position -- in the final group at the Masters, with a chance to be the first Tennesseean to win a green jacket since Dr. Cary Middlecoff in 1955.
"I had no clue what I was doing in 2008," said Snedeker, a Nashville resident and Vanderbilt graduate who shot a 5-over-par 77 five years ago in the final group with eventual winner Trevor Immelman. "I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play this golf course the way you're supposed to play it."
Snedeker shot a 3-under 69 Saturday and stands at 7-under 209 through three rounds. He is tied with 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera, and the pair will begin play at 2:40 today.
"I have a completely clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow," Snedeker said plainly, "a clear set of goals that I need to hit, and if I do that, I have a chance to win this golf tournament.
"The most important thing is too play the par-5s well, and for me I've got to drive the ball well."
Three Australians sit behind Snedeker and Cabrera on the leaderboard, giving each a chance to be the first from Down Under to win the Masters.
Adam Scott shot 3 under Saturday and is 6 under for the tournament. Marc Leishman and second-round leader Jason Day are tied for fourth at 5 under.
"Aussies are proud sporting people, and we'd love to put another notch in our belt, just like any great sporting country," Scott said. "This is one thing that one of us would like to do for sure."
Matt Kuchar is three shots off the lead. Then Tim Clark and Tiger Woods -- who was assessed a two-stroke penalty before play Saturday -- are tied for seventh, four behind the leaders.
"Today started off obviously different, but I'm right there in the ballgame," Woods said. "As of right now, I'm four back with a great shot to win this championship."
Woods has never come from behind to win any of his 14 major championships, including his four green jackets, let alone overcoming four strokes and seven players.
That's a pretty high hurdle for the pack chasing Snedeker and Cabrera for the leading spot in tonight's ceremony.
"Tomorrow, it's about execution and patience," Cabrera said through a translator. "I don't think it's a big advantage that I've won before. It's more about patience."
That's one lesson that Snedeker has learned since he last drove down Magnolia Lane for a late Sunday tee time. He also has learned how to win.
Snedeker won once in 2011 and twice last year and won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year. He also had a third, a tie for second and a solo second out West before a rib injury sidelined him for about a month.
"It's been two seasons, is the best way to put it," Snedeker said. "The first part of the season I was healthy, playing great and nothing was wrong. Then I got hurt and had to start pretty much from scratch again. So I'm getting that feeling back, the momentum back like I did early in the year.
"This is what I've worked my whole life for."
Now 32 years old and married with two children, Snedeker no longer is the one seeking knowledge and experience. He's giving it.
He has helped former Baylor School golfer and fellow Vanderbilt alum Luke List in the past. He's talked with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Steven Fox, the U.S. Amateur champion who missed the cut this week, and played with him in the Par-3 contest.
"I try to help them not make the mistakes I made, not that I am by any means a veteran out here, but I feel like I've made a ton of mistakes in my career to this point of how I've gone about playing and practicing in this game," Snedeker said. "It helps reaffirm what you should already know. Sometimes you forget to realize how important practice regimens are and how important staying patient is -- small stuff."
What he's learned and what he's been teaching will all be put to golf's ultimate test on the sport's brightest stage this afternoon.
"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. I'm not here to get a good finish. I'm not here to finish top five.
"I'm here to win, and that's all I'm going to be focused on tomorrow."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...