ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The Fourth of July now has a new significance for Brandt Snedeker. The holiday also marks when he was struck down by the pain that has sidelined him for the past seven months.
“We were going to play golf. I went out there on the range and I couldn’t hit about five balls and I couldn’t breathe,” Snedeker said Monday on the practice putting green at Sea Island Golf Club, where he’ll make his first PGA TOUR since June. He decided last week to play the RSM Classic, which begins Thursday, to discern the status of his recovery from the sternum joint injury. He also is scheduled to play with Bubba Watson at the QBE Shootout on Dec. 8-10.
“We got to the point where the doctors were like, ‘We need to figure out if we have this licked or if we need to do something different,’” said Snedeker, the 2012 FedExCup champion. “I’ve been playing at home, but there’s only so much I can do at home before I can see if I can handle five days in a row, uneven lies, rough, bunkers. I can do it fine at home, but out here it’s always a little bit different.”
Snedeker is trying to avoid surgery, so he has spent the past seven months visiting doctors and trying a myriad of therapies to relieve the pain coming from his sternum, where a bone spur is pushing on his manubriosternal joint, which connects the upper and lower halves of the sternum.
“I have a bone spur that has kind of caused the joint to separate and become unstable,” he said. “It makes me feel like I have a broken sternum.”
He hasn’t played since finishing ninth in the U.S. Open and T14 in the following week’s Travelers Championship. He tried to play two of his favorite events, The Open Championship and Wyndham Championship, but had to withdraw from both. He didn’t touch a club for nearly 10 weeks after withdrawing from the Wyndham, where he earned his first TOUR title in 2007, in August.
Rest was the first step in his recovery. He also has changed his workouts, his swing and his diet. He has tried to strengthen his chest and core to give the joint more stability. Working with instructor John Tillery, who may be best known for helping Kevin Kisner become a two-time TOUR winner, Snedeker has changed his address position and his pivot in order to take pressure off the joint. He also has eliminated sugar and carbohydrates as part of an anti-inflammatory diet, which he has called “miserable.”
“I have some arthritis and inflammation in (the joint),” he said. “Anyone who has ever had arthritis or inflammation in a joint that you use knows it can be nagging and awful because the more you use it, the worse it gets. Unfortunately, that’s where mine has gotten to.”
Snedeker said sternum joint injuries are often caused by high-impact sports like football and motocross. “They’d never seen one in a golfer,” he added. The injury doesn’t inhibit his daily activities, but the vibrations from hitting a golf ball cause pain. He said he feels pain before and after he plays, but that it subsides after he has warmed up. He played golf several days last week, but those were quick rounds played in a cart. He is curious to see how the joint will hold up during the slower pace of competitive rounds, when there is a longer wait between shots.
If all goes well this week, Snedeker is hopeful that he can make his first start of 2018 at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California.