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Golf Tidbits: Don't make Snedeker a major favorite, yet

Brandt Snedeker is on a roll not seen very often before. Since 1970, no player had posted back-to-back runner-up finishes, then won his next start.

Snedeker ended that string on Sunday. He put together four terrific rounds on the Monterey coast and cruised to his fifth PGA Tour title at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

As good as he has been this year, looking forward to the major season, things get a little hazy for the reigning FedExCup champion.

Golf Channel's Jason Sobel pumped the breaks on considering Snedeker as a Masters favorite when he tweeted that the last player to win Pebble then the Masters in the same year was Tom Watson - in 1977.

Digging deeper on that same thought path, only 17 times since 1955 has the Pebble Beach winner gone on to win a major that same year. And three of those winners won multiple majors after their victory at Pebble Beach.

Snedeker knows the next step for him is to win a major

"I've gone there in the past thinking I could contend. This year, I'm going there knowing I can contend," Snedeker said of Augusta National and The Masters. "Knowing that winning is not a far-fetched idea. It's very much a reality. I go in with a ton of confidence. I know if I play the way I've played the last few weeks that there's very few people in the world that can beat me. I would relish that challenge of being there on Sunday."

Maybe he'll be the one to buck the trend and end the string of Pebble winners not winning at Augusta. And he's got some statistical data on his side.

Snedeker shared third at the season-opening Tournament of Champions. After a share of 23rd at the Humana Challenge, he finished second in consecutive weeks to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

If you expand the focus of his finishes to the end of last season, in eight of his last 10 PGA Tour starts, Snedeker has finished inside the top 11. In that span, he has two wins and three runner-up finishes.

He said on Sunday that one of his goals is to become the best American player, but in the same breath admitted he has a long way to go.

One area of his game that is fine is his putting. In many people's eyes, Snedeker has replaced Steve Stricker as the best American putter on the PGA Tour.

Through five events, he ranks in the top 30 in Strokes Gained, Putting Average, which is average putts per green in regulation, and Overall Putting, which is average putts per hole.

The 32-year-old's putting helps him overcome two lesser parts of his game - total driving, where he ranks 76th, and average approach shot distance, where he ranks just 147th.

Drive for show, putt for dough as the old saying goes. And Snedeker's putter has helped him rack of lots of dough since September.

If he continues to roll the rock like he has in his last three events, Snedeker would be the clear favorite next week at the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship. However, his third-round loss last year was his best showing in that event.

Winning a WGC is the next logical step before winning a major. I'm not trying to downplay Snedeker's chances at Augusta, but there are eight tournaments between now and then. If The Masters were in two or three weeks, he'd be among the top two or three favorites.

Getting back to Pebble winners winning a major later that same season, Phil Mickelson was the last to do so when he won the 2005 Pebble Beach Pro-Am then went on to win the PGA Championship that August.

Unfortunately for Snedeker, the U.S. Open isn't at Pebble Beach this year. He could have joined Woods (2000) and Jack Nicklaus (1972) as the third player to win the Pebble tournament and the U.S. Open on the same course in the same year.

Snedeker is clearly the hottest golfer on the PGA Tour right now, but there are nine weeks until the first major at Augusta. He is a favorite as of today, but that could change quickly.

KO CONTINUES TO ASTONISH

Lydia Ko, who is all of 15 years old, won her third professional golf tournament last Sunday in New Zealand.

This victory came after she won the ANZ Ladies Masters and the Canadian Women's Open last year.

This wasn't a weak field that she ran over. Among those competing were former Solheim Cup players like Maria Hjorth, Gwladys Nocera and Laura Davies, along with a couple other young up-and-comers such as Ariya Jutanugarn and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece.

Ko was born in South Korea, but lives in New Zealand. She nearly won this title each of the last three years before finally breaking through.

"This win is at the top. It is the national open and I came so close in the last three years. This topped it off. The New South Wales Open and the Canadian Open were obviously great wins as well," Ko said. "It means a lot and makes it more special to be the first New Zealander to win the Women's Open. It is always special to make history. I guess I broke history again."

She certainly has her named stamped in the record books already. She is the youngest winner in LPGA and Ladies European Tour history, and is easily the youngest player ever with three professional wins.

Ko is clearly the top-ranked female amateur golfer in the world, and has risen to No. 30 in the world rankings.

That is not a misprint.

For those that haven't seen Ko in action, she is playing this week's LPGA Tour event in Australia and will play the Kraft Nabisco Championship the first week of April.

If she is this good at 15, imagine how great she'll be at 25!

MINI-TIDBITS

* The biggest reason Snedeker is having a solid season so far, he's broken par in 18 of his 19 rounds, and 16-of-19 rounds were in the 60s.

* Phil Mickelson is skipping the Accenture Match Play again next week. His kids are off from school, so the family goes on vacation. He can do that any time he wants, but whatever floats your boat Phil. Why not go to the Match Play, where even a first-round loser earns $45,000?