Brandt Snedeker returns to the PGA Tour this week at the Memorial Tournament, but his nearly nine-month hiatus from golf seemed anything but fun.
Snedeker revealed on Wednesday that he underwent an “experimental” procedure in December to fix a persistent sternum problem, and has since been recovering.
“Luckily everything went according to plan,” said Snedeker of Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. “I took a bone out of my hip and opened up my sternum and kind of created a new sternum in a way. It’s much more stable and I hope it doesn’t hurt me. So so far so good.
Snedeker was diagnosed with manubrium joint instability, and he’s been treating the problem since 2016. After the British Open the following year, he said he “felt like I was breaking my sternum.” He’s tried just about everything to try and fix it since then, including flying to South America for stem cell treatments.
Typically, Snedeker said, the injury stems from some sort of traumatic event like a car accident. He, however, wasn’t involved in anything like that. His injury is the “only one that was not related to trauma”. He doesn’t really know how he got it either.
Then late last year, after challenging for the Fortinet Championship in September, Snedeker knew he had to do something different. The pain was just too much to continue playing.
So in December, after convincing his longtime doctor, Snedeker underwent “experimental surgery” in Nashville. The procedure had only been performed once at that time.
“They took a bone the size of my thumb out of my hip and they opened up my sternum and kind of cut it out and made a huge incision,” Snedeker said. “They made up about the size of my little finger on the lower part of the sternum and the upper part and put this bone in the middle of them and kind of created an ankle almost like a thing. And then wrapped it in putty and bone paste and tried to let it heal and reattach. So I kind of broke my sternum on purpose, opened my sternum, and then kind of put it back together.
Snedeker then took about five months off. He didn’t start hitting balls again until April 1 and didn’t play a full round until April 21.
Although it was a bit slow and he admittedly couldn’t reach the shooting range for long stretches, Snedeker feels much, much better.
“I haven’t had a setback,” he said. “I kept getting better and better and I never really had any pain or any kind of – I’m going to have stiffness and aches and that kind of thing that’s to be expected. I mean, I had my chest cut open so it will be painful but no pain or sharp tingling or anything like that.
Snedeker, 42, has won the Tour nine times in his career. His last victory came at the Wyndham Championship in 2018. He made the cut just eight times in 22 attempts last season and he finished T59 at the Fortinet Championship in September. Snedeker will start Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Memorial Tournament alongside Davis Riley and Lucas Herbert.
His status on the Tour is also about to run out. He has five vents left on his minor medical exemption, and then his golf future will be a bit up in the air. Snedeker’s past victories and his place at No. 27 on the all-time career winning list will always help him to participate in certain events. But if he can’t extend his Tower card, it might get difficult.
Still, no matter where his golf future takes him, Snedeker has no regrets about having the procedure – even if it meant he had to switch from professional golf.
“The decision I made at the end of last year was either it will work or it won’t,” Snedeker said. “I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. So if that doesn’t work, I’ll find something else to do. And if it works, I hope I can come back here and do it. So it was kind of a thought process. I can’t keep banging my head against the same wall.
“So I had faith it would work, but you never know.”