September 30, 2023

Brandt Snedeker returns to PGA Tour after long sternum problem, ‘experimental surgery’

Brandt Snedeker returns to the PGA Tour this week at the Memorial Tournament, but his nearly nine-month break from golf has sounded anything but fun.

Snedeker revealed on Wednesday that he underwent an “experimental” procedure in December to fix an ongoing sternum problem, and has been recovering ever since.

“Fortunately, everything went as it should,” said Snedeker of Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. “I took a bone out of my hip and cut open my sternum and kind of made a new sternum. It’s much more stable and hopefully it won’t hurt me. So, so far, so good.”

Snedeker was diagnosed with manubrium joint instability, and he’s dealt with the problem since 2016. After the British Open the following year, he said it “felt like I was breaking my sternum.” Since then, he’s tried just about anything to fix it, including flying to South America for stem cell treatments.

Typically, Snedeker said, the injury stems from some sort of traumatic event such as a car accident. However, he was not involved in anything. His injury is the “only one that was non-trauma related”. He also doesn’t know exactly how he got it.

Then late last year, after battling through the Fortinet Championship in September, Snedeker knew he had to do something different. The pain was just too much to keep playing.

So in December, after convincing his old doctor, Snedeker underwent the “experimental surgery” in Nashville. At that point, the procedure had only been performed once.

Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker was only the second person on record to undergo an “experimental” sternum procedure in December. (Marc Lebryk/USA Today)

“They took a thumb-sized bone out of my hip and cut open my sternum and cut through it a little bit and made a huge incision,” Snedeker said. “They picked about the size of my little finger on my lower sternum and upper part and put that bone in the middle and made some sort of plug that almost looks like something. And then wrapped it in bone putty and paste and tried to sort of let it heal and reattach itself. So I broke my sternum on purpose, cut my sternum open, and then reattached it.

Snedeker then took about five months off. He did not start hitting balls again until April 1 and did not play a full round until April 21.

Although things have been a bit slow and he admittedly can’t get on the field for a long time, Snedeker is feeling much, much better.

“I’ve had no setbacks,” he said. “It kept getting better and better and never really had any pain or any sort of — I’ll have some stiffness and soreness and things like that that’s to be expected. I mean, I cut open my chest, so it’s going to be painful. But no pain or sharp tingling or anything like that.”

The 42-year-old Snedeker won the Tour nine times in his career. His last win was at the Wyndham Championship in 2018. Last season he made the cut just eight times in 22 attempts and finished T59 at the Fortinet Championship in September. Snedeker tees off on Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Memorial Tournament alongside Davis Riley and Lucas Herbert.

His Tour status is also coming to an end. He’s got five openings left on his minor medical waiver, and then his golf future will be a little up in the air. Snedeker’s previous wins and his No. 27 spot on the all-time career money list will still help him compete in certain events. But if he can’t renew his Tour card, things could get tough.

Still, no matter where his golfing future takes him, Snedeker has no regrets about undergoing the procedure – even if it meant retiring from golf professionally.

“The decision I made at the end of last year was: this is going to work or not,” said Snedeker. “I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. So if it doesn’t work, I’ll find something else to do. And if it works, hopefully I can come back here and do this. So that was kind of the thought process. I can’t keep banging my head against the same wall.

“So I was confident it would work, but you never know.”

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