(Reuters) - Last year, Brandt Snedeker made a blistering start to the 2013 PGA Tour with three top-three finishes in his first four tournaments before going on to clinch a two-shot victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
This week, the fast-talking American is back to defend his title at Pebble Beach and though his results in recent weeks have fallen well short of those achieved 12 months ago, he believes his game is very close to his best.
"I was watching the footage last night of last year's tournament and I feel like I'm doing a lot of things a lot better than I was last year and just not quite coming through," Snedeker told reporters on Wednesday. "So I'm excited.
"This next little stretch for me should entail some pretty good golf. This is probably my favorite place in the world, let alone favorite places to play golf.
"So it's great to be back, especially with all these good memories coming back from last year. Even though the results aren't there, the game's actually really close. So I'm excited for the week to get underway and see how my game stacks up."
A six-times winner on the PGA Tour, Snedeker has recorded just one top-25 in five starts during the new wraparound 2013-14 season, a tie for 11th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last month.
Regarded as one of golf's best putters, he has surprisingly been struggling on the greens and sits 56th in the PGA Tour's 'strokes gained - putting' charts, which rate a player's performance relative to the rest of the tournament field.
"My putting has been bad the start of this year, and it was mediocre at times middle of last year, just real streaky, which is unlike me," said Snedeker. "Normally my putting's pretty consistent.
"So I've been working on it hard and it's close. I can do it on the putting green, I just can't do it on the golf course. So it's frustrating, but that's golf. I'm still working on it and hopefully I can get the consistency back at some point."
Snedeker, who closed with a seven-under-par 65 at Pebble Beach Golf Links last year to post a tournament record low of 19-under 267, has one abiding memory of his performance that week.
"The way I managed my game ... I kind of used that as my model of how I should play golf," said the 33-year-old, who also won the Canadian Open last season. "I did a great job here over the course of the four days.
"I managed myself really well, didn't leave myself any tough up-and-downs or short side myself or make any mental mistakes really, it was pretty flawless from that side.
"It's something you're constantly working on and it frustrates you because you feel like you have it and it leaves you and you've got to try and find it again. That's why I love the game."
Snedeker, who also won the pro-am division at Pebble Beach last year in partnership with fellow Vanderbilt University alum Toby Wilt, will launch his title defense on Thursday on the Spyglass Hill Golf Course.
The $6.6 million PGA Tour event will be played on three courses: the hosting Pebble Beach Golf Links and its sister venues Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Shore.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)
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