PEBBLE BEACH -- If Brandt Snedeker isn't the best golfer in America -- and quite possibly the world -- he is certainly wielding the most sizzling set of sticks on the planet.
Snedeker is also playing golf at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am like a man determined not to play second-place bridesmaid for a third consecutive week, and even though he still has to finish the job, even his closest competition knows the score.
"Brandt Snedeker is the hottest guy in golf right now," said former Cal standout James Hahn, tied for the lead with Snedeker heading into Sunday's final round. "Even I picked him to win this week, which just goes to show you nobody is expecting me to win.
"I root for the underdog, but I still think he's going to win."
So does Snedeker himself, even if he didn't come right out and say it after shooting 4-under 68 on Saturday at Pebble Beach Golf Links to share the lead at 12-under 202 with Hahn.
Hahn scalded Spyglass Hill with a bogey-free 6-under 66, and he and Snedeker were a shot ahead of Chris Kirk, who posted a 6-under 64 at Monterey Peninsula.
Snedeker and Hahn will be playing in the final group Sunday, but Snedeker feels he will have a built-in advantage because for the second straight day he will be playing Pebble Beach, where already he has a handle on the conditions and the speed of the greens.
Moreover, he'll also look at the leader board and not see Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson,
"I'm surely going to be more prepared, no matter who is around me in the last group," Snedeker said. "I'm probably going to have the most experience of anybody in the last couple groups of winning a golf tournament. So I'm going to lean on that and use it to my advantage."
The scary part is Snedeker hasn't even unleashed his best golf, even though he had a string of four straight birdies Saturday -- Nos. 6-9 -- and has just four bogeys and 16 birdies over the first three days. He had two of his bogeys Saturday -- at the par-3 fifth hole and par-4 10th -- and said he blew some good birdie opportunities on the back nine, where he shot even-par 36.
"I don't feel like I'm in the zone, by any means," he said. "But I feel I'm playing very smart golf.
"When you hear about Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods when they were winning all the time, what they did was manage their golf game very well every day, and I feel like I've been doing that great the last few weeks. The days I haven't been hitting it great, I've put it in spots where I can minimize my mistakes."
Snedeker, 32, obviously took a monumental leap in stature last year when he won nearly $5 million and the FedEx Cup by capturing The Tour Championship. But he's not done climbing yet, he said, saying he has aspirations to be the No. 1 player in the world.
"I feel like it's a very real possibility at this time," he said. "I've told people in the last year that's a goal of mine. People probably didn't believe in me and didn't think it's doable, but I think it is, and I believe in myself and what I'm capable of."
As for Hahn, the 31-year-old tour rookie who grew up in Alameda and now lives in San Bruno, he is just happy to be playing alongside Snedeker. He considers him such a heavy favorite that he said he feels less pressure than he normally would playing in the final group. It doesn't hurt that he has his older brother Tom, a calming family influence, as his caddie this week.
"Just to learn from Brandt Snedeker, that would mean more to me than playing in any golf tournament on the tour," Hahn said. "My No. 1 priority when I get to a tournament is to make the cut and just to have fun, learn as much as I can from other players and the courses."
It's working for him -- Hahn made the cut in all five tournaments he's played this year, and he should get a big check here. But as far as winning, much will be dependent on Snedeker, who is looking and sounding like someone who simply won't be denied.
His game plan for Sunday, he said, is ironclad.
"There's no secret here," he said. "Everybody knows the first six holes, you have to be aggressive and make some birdies. After that, you have to hang on for a few holes and then get back at it."
Kirk, 27, could be a sleeper. He earned his first tour win at the Viking Classic as a rookie in 2011. Last year, he had four top 10 finishes and won $1.2 million, good for 85th on the money list.