AP Sports Writer
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) -- Brandt Snedeker stepped in front of the cameras, offered a few opening remarks about the RBC Heritage and then took a breath.
"Go ahead," he told the group. "I know it's coming."
Snedeker knew the focus Wednesday would quickly turn to his disappointing final round at the Masters. He went into Sunday's round tied for the lead and in prime position for his first major. Instead, he shot a 75 and tied for sixth behind champion Adam Scott.
Snedeker, the 2011 Heritage champion, believes the best way to bounce back is to continue playing -- something he'll do starting Thursday as part of a strong field at Harbour Town Golf Links.
"I love being back here. Obviously, the drive down is a big relief," said Snedeker, the tournament's highest-ranked player at No. 5. "The breath of fresh air after the stress of last week."
For much of last weekend, it looked as if the only stress he might deal with was to avoid crying when he put on the Masters champion's green jacket. Snedeker had birdied his opening hole to move to 8 under and was still in contention at the turn.
Instead, he struggled on the back nine with bogeys on the 10th, 11th and 14th holes. Snedeker famously cried during post-tournament interviews in 2008 when he had a chance to win the Masters and finished third after a final-round 77.
This time, Snedeker left with some resolve that his time at Augusta National will come. He wasn't sure what his golfing career had in store for him five years ago. Now, one of the world's best, Snedeker has perspective about what he can achieve.
"I have a good idea what I'm doing," he said. "I realize it's a process. I did a lot of stuff really, really well last week."
And that's why Snedeker is confident he can carry that preparation into the Heritage. He came from six shots down in the final round to catch Luke Donald here two years ago, winning the title on the third playoff hole.
The good vibes and friendly layout have done wonders since Snedeker arrived Monday.
"Getting down here is very therapeutic," he said.
He'll have plenty of talented players to contend with. The sixth-ranked Donald is in the field, along with Matt Kuchar (No. 9). Reigning major champions Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) also are competing. In all, 14 of the world's top 29 players are teeing it while the world's best take a break before preparations start for the U.S. Open -- the year's second major.
"We're gunning for FedEx Cup (points) and all that stuff," Ernie Els said. "And this is a big week in that direction."
Not everyone is at Harbour Town.
The world's top two players, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, are off this week, as is Scott, who is busy fulfilling the seemingly endless run of media obligations as a major champion.
Els felt pride and satisfaction after his good friend Scott put on the green jacket. After all, it was Scott's collapse at the British Open last July -- he was four strokes up with four holes left -- that allowed Els to claim his fourth career major.
Els, who tied for 13th last week, said he consoled Scott at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's and has encouraged him since to continue striving for major championships.
It was a different sort of conversation the two shared after this major.
"Yeah, we had quite a few beers, both of us, when we spoke to each other," said Els, smiling. "He's very delighted, I can promise you, that he got a green jacket -- and I was delighted for him."
Els will be in the spotlight this week. On Friday, tournament organizers will team with "Els for Autism" on a number of initiatives to raise awareness of autism, highlight the importance of early detection and raise funds to help build the Els Center of Excellence, which will serve people on the autism spectrum from ages 3-21.
Els' 10-year-old son was diagnosed with autism.
"It's something we want to do," Els said of the center. "It will keep finding its legs as we go along."
Jason Day, who finished third at Augusta National, was encouraged by another strong showing at the famed course and by his countryman becoming the first Australian to win the Masters. For Day, it was his second close call in the past three Masters, sharing second with Scott in 2011 behind winner Charl Schwartzel.
Day and Scott exchanged texts in the midst of Scott's post-Masters whirlwind.
Scott wrote that he understood the disappointment, yet appreciated the class Day showed in defeat.
"And I texted him back and said, 'I'm glad it was you to be the first. It goes down in history forever, mate,'" Day recalled.
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