Brendan Steele, the leader at the RBC Canadian Open, has one top-10 finish in 20 previous events in 2013.
By David McPherson, Special to PGATOUR.COM
OAKVILLE, Ontario -- A tale of tee times sums up the opening round of the 2013 RBC Canadian Open.
Players who teed off early took advantage of optimal scoring conditions. Many with an afternoon starting time struggled to break par. After lunch, the wind picked up, especially in Glen Abbey’s valley holes — one possible reason for the lack of red numbers in the afternoon.
Brendan Steele, with a 7:50 a.m. tee time, set the pace early. The Californian fired the low round of the day, a 6-under 66.
“Today was probably the most complete round that I’ve had all year, so that was kind of nice,” he said. “I didn’t miss many greens, didn’t hit many shots off line, and I was able to roll a few putts in.”
American Joe Affrunti, who continues to rehabilitate a shoulder injury, was one of the few players in the afternoon wave who rolled in some putts. The 31-year-old, who has only played in three TOUR events this year, made five birdies to go along with one bogey for a 4-under 68.
As far as the Canadians – trying to break the 59-year winless drought in their national open – the low round belonged to Brad Fritsch. He finished his day with three straight birdies to post a 69, three back of Steele.
“I felt like I played really well today,” Fritsch said. “I felt like I drove it great. I think I hit less than 50 percent of the fairways, but I think that’s just the nature of this golf course.
“It looked like I got some horrendous bounces,” added the 35-year-old, whose best finish this season is a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open. “When I was expecting one way, it went the other, and that led to a little bit of frustration. But I stayed patient.”
When asked about the tougher scoring conditions in the afternoon, Fritsch admitted the wind was a factor that required some extra patience.
“Yeah, it swirled quite a bit, obviously, in the valley which is tough,” he said. “It always does. The greens seemed a little inconsistent speed wise. It’s probably sun versus shade which greens get the most of that.”
By David McPherson, Special to PGATOUR.COM
OAKVILLE, Ontario -- On a blue sky day perfect for scoring, Brendan Steele took advantage of his opportunities, posting a 65 for the low round of the morning.
The 30-year-old, who currently sits 97th in the FedExCup standings, admitted it was the most complete round he’s played all year.
“Overall, it was a good day,” Steele said. “I hit a lot of good shots and was able to hole a lot of putts. I also didn’t miss many greens or hit many shots offline and I was able to roll a few putts in.”
Roll them in the Californian did.
He had 28 putts for the round. More importantly was his ability to get his approach shots close, hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
Another key for Steele was staying out of Glen Abbey’s deceptive rough for most of his round, hitting nine of 14 fairways. On a day of perfect conditions, was one of the few defenses the course offered.
It was this gnarly rough that might have prevented Matt Kuchar from a record round. Kuchar, currently ranked third both in FedExCup points and earnings, is just a shot back of Steele after a 66 that included an included an eagle on the par-5 18th (his ninth) at Glen Abbey.
With a large crowd following him in the early afternoon on Thursday, the 35-year-old looked relaxed and confident. His only hiccup came on the difficult sixth after finding the rough.
“Six is a hard hole,” he said. “The rough can be really penalizing. I hit my drive into the left rough. I had a good lie and was able to get it to the green, but I caught a flier and it ran through the green and into the crowd, into some trampled down, matted-down rough, which is difficult in figuring out the grain and how the ball is going to come out.
“I hit a poor chip that didn’t even get to the green. There was more rough and more grain than I had accounted for and it came up short.”
Before Brendan Steele got to the PGA TOUR, he spent two seasons on the Canadian Tour, where his best finish was a runner-up in Edmonton.
Now he's looking to do one better.
Steele opened with a 7-under 65 Thursday at Glen Abbey, where he grabbed the lead after the morning wave of the RBC Canadian Open.
The 30-year-old Californian, whose lone win on TOUR came in San Antonio two years ago, made eight birdies and just one bogey in the first round. He wasn't the only one to go low, however.
Three others, including Matt Kuchar, are just a shot back, while Hunter Mahan and David Lingmerth are two off the pace.
Eight others are at 4 under.
Steele has three top 25s this season, which includes a sixth-place finish in Phoenix, but has also missed eight cuts in 20 starts, including six in a row at one point. The 65 is his best score since back-to-back 65s in the second and third rounds in Phoenix.
Steele won at TPC San Antonio in 2011. (Carroll/Getty Images)
By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SAN ANTONIO -- Brendan Steele is in his third season on the PGA TOUR, yet he admits to still trying to figure a few things out.
How to practice. What to eat. Where to play.
Where to play?
“This tournament was an easy one to pick,” Steele said Tuesday morning as he looked out over the practice range at TPC San Antonio while preparing the Valero Texas Open.
While many players tend to shy away from the demanding Greg Norman layout, Steele is a die-hard enthusiast of the Oaks Course at TPC. This is the site of his first and only win on TOUR, posting an 8-under two years ago to clip Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell by a stroke on a leaderboard that also included Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley.
Steele, who turns 30 on Friday, also finished fourth here last year, when a final-round 67 on the par-72 track put him four back of winner Ben Curtis. It was a bright spot on an otherwise dull year.
He failed to repeat a win after that rookie-season triumph in San Antonio, he missed the cut in the Masters (he needs to win this week to get back to Augusta) and he did not advance to the FedEx Playoffs (he's currently 66th in the standings).
That’s where the how-to-eat comment comes into play for Steele’s season.
“It’s really been kind of my new thing for this year,” he said.
Steele has been visiting a nutritionist in his hometown of Irvine, Calif. At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Steele doesn’t offer much resistance to the winds he’s facing in Texas.
“He really taught me how to eat so we wouldn‘t have big spikes and crashes out there,” Steele said. “I think it’s been a big difference for me in my consistency. I’ve played pretty solid almost every week this year. I feel like I’m close to having a real big run.”
Though Steele has one top-10 finish (T6 when he shot all sub-70 rounds at the Waste Management Phoenix Open), he has made seven cuts in the eight events he’s played. That’s a much better strike rate than missing 10 cuts in 24 tries last year.
Steele comes to San Antonio off a 38th-place finish at the Shell Houston Open. Perhaps the longer TPC San Antonio (7,522 yards), plays to his game. Steele is 13th in greens in regulation on shots 125 yards and longer at 89 percent.
And when he won here in 2011, his total driving number (combination of rank on driving accuracy and driving distance) was 17.
“Definitely guys that drive the ball well and keep the ball in play do well here,” Steele said. “You’ll see a lot of different clubs off the tees just because guys need to get it in play, somewhere, on some grass, and I’ve been fortunate to not end up in that native stuff past the rough very often the two years I’ve been here. I think that’s the biggest reason I’ve done well here.”
Two former champions are among those setting the pace as the morning wave heads to the back nine in the first round of the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank.
Defending champion Luke Donald and K.J. Choi, who has won the tournament twice, are playing togethyer and both are 3 under. Also tied at the top of the leaderboard is Brendan Steele.
World Golf Hall of Famer Vijay Singh also has played 13 holes and is tied at 2 under with Chez Reavie and Peter Tomasulo. Nick Watney, Ryan Palmer and PGA TOUR rookie Patrick Reed are among eight players tied at 1 under.
Former champion Jim Furyk, who lost in a playoff last year, is even par through 13 holes while Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer are also at that number.
The pairings have been unveiled for this week’s PGA TOUR Matchups Game on Facebook. You can check out the Matchups for the Wyndham Championship below, or on the PGA TOUR’s Facebook page.
Participants have until 6 a.m. ET Thursday to make their picks. Log on to the PGA TOUR Facebook page and click the Matchups link to make your picks for this week, or to sign up.
|Webb Simpson vs. Bill Haas||Wake Forest alums do battle in their home state|
|Carl Pettersson vs. Ryan Moore||Two past Wyndham champs ready for more at Sedgefield|
|Davis Love III vs. Jason Dufner||Ryder Cup Captain keeps close eye on Ryder Cup rookie|
|Sergio Garcia vs. Trevor Immelman||Two international stars are looking to kick-start their season|
|Jhonattan Vegas vs. Brendan Steele||Both need a big week to get into the FedExCup Playoffs|
TPC San Antonio was only in its second year as a PGA TOUR venue in 2011, and players were still finding their way around the massive track. With plenty of yardage and large, multi-tiered greens, the field made plenty of bogeys, averaging about 14 per player.
So how did Brendan Steele win? He made only eight bogeys, giving him six shots on the field in that category alone. He finished at 8 under, beating Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell by stroke.
A large portion of his consistent scoring can be attributed to
his performance around the
greens. Green missed 30 greens in regulation, but successfully salvaged par or better 22 times.
Steele secured the win when he sank a 7-footer for par on the 72nd hole. He was 17-for-17 on putts inside 10 feet in the final round.
How Steele ranked vs. the field in the 2011 Valero Texas Open:
|Statistic||Steele rank||Steele stat||The field|
|Driving Distance||10th||303 yards||289 yards|
|Driving accuracy||T7||64.29 percent||51.65 percent|
|Going for the green||T8||52.38 percent||36.45 percent|
|Scrambling||6th||73.33 percent||56.09 percent|
|Putts per round||2nd||26.00||28.70|
|Putting - Inside 10'||6th||91.30 percent||85.22 percent|
|Par 5 birdie or better||Tst||50 percent||25.96 percent|
TPC San Antonio has quickly developed a reputation as the toughest par-72 course on the PGA TOUR, excluding majors. In general, the field is missing the fairway half the time (51.65 percent), and they barely hit the green half the time (56.32 percent).
Toughest courses on TOUR in 2011 (non-majors):
|The Honda Classic||1||PGA National||70||72.54|
|RBC Canadian Open||2||Shaughnessy||70||72.521|
|HP Byron Nelson||3||TPC Four Seasons||70||72.354|
|Valero Texas Open||4||TPC San Antonio||72||73.665|
|Arnold Palmer Invitational||5||Bay Hill Club and Lodge||72||73.203|