Tee to Green: Is Snedeker ready to take the next step?

There is no question Brandt Snedeker has been one of the world's best golfers over the past several months.

The former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year won a pair of tournaments in 2012, including the season-ending Tour Championship, which helped him capture the FedExCup and vaulted him into the world top 10 for the first time. And while he's yet to record a victory in 2013, Snedeker has arguably been the most consistent golfer on the young season.

So the question is: Can he take the next step and parlay this hot streak into a major championship?

The casual golf fan may be unaware of how well Snedeker has played this year. Those who typically don't tune in until April, or those who avoid fantasy golf, may not know that Snedeker has risen to No. 6 in the world and once again leads the FedExCup standings.

They may not have heard the 32-year-old has recorded two runner-up finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for 23rd in four starts this season; or that 12 of his last 13 rounds have been in the 60s.

Of course, they know that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson won the last two tournaments, but do they know that Snedeker placed second in both those events?

He lost to Tiger by four strokes at the Farmers Insurance Open in a Monday finish before falling victim to Mickelson's assault on the field at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Snedeker ended four shots behind Mickelson, who nearly carded a 59 on the opening day and went on to tie the 72-hole scoring record.

"I feel like I'm running (into) the Hall of Famers every week," Snedeker said after his loss to Mickelson. "It would be nice if they weren't in the field and I could go ahead and go after it. It's just tough, you know."

Snedeker wasn't complaining, he was being facetious. And he realizes he needs to produce more victories to legitimize his hot streak.

"You have to win majors and win tournaments to be recognized as an elite player," he continued. "And I haven't done nearly enough of that, you know. I'm playing great right now. I'm as high as I have ever been in the world ranking and all that kind of stuff, but you have to win tournaments to validate that. I haven't done it."

That's not entirely true. Snedeker has four wins since joining the tour in 2007 and he's come close in a couple of majors.

In 2008, he entered the final round of the Masters in second place before stumbling to a 77 and finishing tied for third. Last year, he tied the 36-hole scoring record at the British Open, then turned in rounds of 73 and 74 to end knotted in third with Woods.

So, after a few wins and a pair of close calls, is Snedeker ready to be elite? It is difficult to predict, but he is coming off the best year of his career and he hasn't relented.

He ranks first in top-10 finishes, first in birdie average and total birdies and second in scoring average this season. He is just 82nd in total driving, but his strength lies on the greens, where he finished No. 1 in strokes gained-putting a year ago. Fittingly, he was the best putter in the field last week at 25 putts per round.

Still, he was undone by a scintillating Mickelson in that tourney and was bested by Woods the week prior.

"I think when you win majors and win multiple times in years, you validate whatever people say about you," Snedeker noted in Phoenix.

He has been beaten by the greats in recent events. Maybe it's due time to join them.