Got a question for Brendan Steele? Send us your questions for Direct Connect — PGATOUR.COM’s video franchise that gets you closer to a PGA TOUR pro each week — and host John Swantek might use it when he chats this week with the defending champion of the Valero Texas Open.
In a year loaded with top rookies, Steele's year was one of the bigger surprises. He kept his cool on a windy final day at TPC San Antonio to secure his first PGA TOUR win, then added two more top-10s to finish the year 52nd in FedExCup points.
Direct Connect video will be posted each Wednesday afternoon on PGATOUR.COM.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The early reports are in from the opening round of the Masters and as expected Augusta National is playing “soft.”
That’s not to be confused with easy, however.
“The greens are soft but the pins are in some tough positions,” said Brendan Steele, who was in the first group off at 7:50 a.m. ET.
Steele struggled in the first round of his first Masters, shooting a 4-over 76 that included a stretch of four straight birdies on the back nine. He went out in even par but closed in 40.
“It’s really easy for the round to get away from you,” said Steele, who turned 29 Thursday. “I don’t even really know what happened.”
Steele added that mud could be an issue and noted two mud balls he had, including on the par-5 13th, where after a good drive he decided to lay up because mud was on his ball. He went on to make bogey.
Tim Clark, meanwhile, is playing in his first Masters since 2010 after undergoing season-ending wrist surgery last year.
Likewise, Clark, who shot 73, thought Augusta National was playing soft and would favor the long hitters.
“I almost spun one in the water on 15, which I wasn’t expecting,” Clark said. “It’s going to play tough for the guys who lay up.”
As for Clark’s wrist, he said he feels good in what is just his fourth start of the season.
Clark, who missed the cut in his first two and was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard at Bay Hill two weeks ago, said he’s finally able to practice full time.
“Today was the first time I hit some decent shots and made some good putts,” Clark said. “Coming here is going to bring out the best in you.”
Today's grouping features five players who know what it takes to win on the PGA TOUR.
Below is a link to each of the 5 players who were revealed on Saturday. PGATOUR.COM will countdown the players for the rest of December, with No. 1 unveiled on Dec. 30.
Be sure to check out this year’s new addition of the Three Wise Men – Chris DiMarco, Arron Oberholser and Craig Perks, who offer their takes on each of the players on the list.
Let’s us know how you think these players will perform in 2012 and whether we ranked ‘em too high, too low or just right.
Six rookies combined for seven wins during the 2011 PGA TOUR season. Check out their accomplishments.
The six nominees for 2011 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year have been unveiled.
The awards are determined by a member vote, with PGA TOUR members who played in at least 15 official money events in 2011 eligible to vote. The winners are expected to be announced the week of Dec. 12.
Nominees for the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year are:
Now it’s your turn. Which player do you think deserves this year’s Rookie of the Year?
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- At 137th on the money list coming into the week, Garrett Willis needs to play well if he wants to climb into the top 125 and secure his PGA TOUR card for next season. That’s exactly what he did Thursday with a 4-under 67 to share the lead with Brenden Steele, Briny Baird ad Matt Bettencourt at the Frys.com Open.
The performance by Willis, and the others, was impressive given not only the circumstances but the weather.
“I didn't like it one bit,” Willis said of what was a cold, wet day with at times heavy rain. “The way that rain was coming down, it was pretty amazing they continued play, but I was just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it would either stop or they'd call play. It was about as tough of conditions I've ever played in.”
He barely showed it, making just one bogey on the day.
For Willis, it’s the second week in a row he’s opened strong. Last week he carded a 65 in the first round in Las Vegas before finishing in a tie for 34th.
But it’s only the first round and Willis is trying not to get ahead of himself and what a win could mean for him.
“I won't think about that,” he said. “I mean obviously if I'm in this position come Saturday night, I'll think about it, but like I said, this is a tough golf course. I'm glad I got this round under my belt, and like I said, I'm still grinding away trying to make the cut. I'm not even thinking about winning golf tournaments. I'm thinking about being able to play on Saturday morning.”
Brendan Steele spoke to the PGA TOUR Network following Thursday's 4-under 67.
Brendan Steele is making his 27th start of his rookie season on TOUR. Yes, he's young -- 28 years old, to be specific -- but that doesn't mean he's immune to the grind of the heavy schedule.
"I'm a little beat up from the year and a little tired," Steele said, "but I'm happy with the way I'm playing."
He should be. Not only did he break through by winning the Valero Texas Open in April, but he's also finishing strong, too.
He has three top-20 finishes in his last five starts, including a tie for 10th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. He was also the third-round co-leader with Jason Dufner at the PGA Championship.
Then on Thursday morning in CordeValle, he shot a 4-under 67 in tough scoring conditions, thanks to a bogey-free back nine that included five birdies.
"It was a little cold and rainy this morning, and the ball wasn't carrying very far, and we were warming up in the dark, and it was a little tough to get going early," Steele said. "But once I made the turn, things started to click, and I started to loosen up the body a little bit and caught some nice weather on the back nine."
Steele, who has made 15 cuts in his first 26 starts and should have no problem making another cut on Friday, is upbeat about what he's done this year.
"I feel like I've packed a lot of years of experience into one year with everything from the win to contending in a major to the PLAYOFFS, and I went to Europe and played a little bit," he said. "So I've had a lot of experiences this year and I think it'll really bode well for me in the future."