By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- The last time most of us saw Brendan Steele, he was plummeting down the leaderboard at the PGA Championship.
Steele had shared the lead with Jason Dufner entering the final round at the Atlanta Athletic Club. But a final-round 77 left Steele a distant 17th while his good buddy Keegan Bradley went on to beat Dufner in a playoff.
Steele, who won the Valero Texas Open earlier this year, has moved past that disappointing Sunday, though. While he missed the cut in his next start at The Barclays, the Californian has steadily climbed the leaderboard this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Sunday's 67 helped Steele move into a tie at 10 under with Jason Day, Chez Reavie, Jerry Kelly and Adam Scott. The five will start the final round at TPC Boston one stroke behind Bubba Watson -- and Steele's experience at the PGA can only be a confidence-builder.
"It definitely hurt a lot right when I got done, especially, and it didn't even hurt so much that I didn't win the golf tournament, it just hurt that I didn't have really the game that I wanted to take out there," Steele said. "A solid finish would have been big for me; something top 5, top 10 I would have taken a lot from.
"But looking at the positives, I led a major through three rounds. It wasn't a one round kind of fluke, who-is-this-guy-type thing. I was up there with the best players in the world through three rounds, so can definitely take a lot from that. And then also having a win this year and a win at the end of last year in the Nationwide Tour Championship, I feel pretty confident about my game and where it sits compared to the best players in the world."
Steele knows Playoffs pressure, too. A year ago, he entered the finale at Daniel Island ranked 30th on the Nationwide Tour money list -- with only the top 25 earning their TOUR cards for 2011. Steele won the tournament, though, and ended up jumping safely to No. 6.
Steele's round got off to a solid start on Sunday when he made a 6-footer for par at the first hole which "kind of got my round going the right day," he said. The rookie followed that with a 6-iron to 27 feet at the par-5 second for eagle.
"Sometimes those par saves are more important than even hitting a good shot in there," he said. "We were off and running there."
Steele made two birdies and two bogeys over his next 15 holes. But he finished with a flourish, staking a 5-iron to 4 feet for his second eagle of the day.
"So that's always a nice way to finish and jump up the board a little bit," he said.
Nick Watney hit his 180-yard second shot to 18 feet on the par-5 second hole and made the putt for eagle during Sunday's third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
MORE EAGLES DURING THE THIRD ROUND
Zach Johnson makes eagle on the drivable par-4 fourth. Click to watch
David Toms makes eagle at the par-5 18th. Click to watch
Brendan Steele makes eagle at the par-5 second. Click to watch
Graeme McDowell makes eagle at the par-5 18th. Click to watch
Chris Kirk's Viking Classic win makes him the fifth rookie to win on the PGA TOUR this year, joining the group of Jhonnatan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley.
Kirk's final-round 66 at Annandale included two late birdies on No. 15 and 17 that helped him move a shot past Tom Pernice Jr. and George McNeill, who finished at 21 under.
Kirk earned his TOUR card by finishing second on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. He had the lead entering Round 4, but did not pull away from the field until the final hole. Pernice and McNeill shot 67 and 68 respectively, and held the lead or a share of the lead for a majority of the back nine.
Kirk approached Annandale's finishing par-5 with a one shot lead and played it in winner's fashion -- fairway, layup, green and two putts.
It was a stellar performance that many could see coming from the former University of Georgia standout. Kirk finished second to Phil Mickelson at the Shell Houston Open in April. He also fired a third-round 63 at the AT&T National two weeks ago that eventually led to a tie for eighth.
Kirk earned 250 FedExCup points with the win, and is now No. 25 in the FedExCup Standings.
With two months to go before the first tee shot is struck in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, much remains to be sorted out.
The top 125 players in the FedExCup standings are eligible to begin the four-event Playoffs series at The Barclays, which will be held Aug. 25-28 at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J. A year ago, it took 380 points to make the field for The Barclays – and a total of 83 players have already earned that many points in 2011.
Seven rookies are among those 83 -- including Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (No. 19); HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Keegan Bradley (No. 22); Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas (No. 24); Valero Texas Open winner Brendan Steele (No. 31); Robert Karlsson, who recently lost in a sudden-death playoff to Harrison Frazar at the FedEx St. Jude Classic; Chris Kirk (No. 50), who tied for second at the Shell Houston Open; and Kevin Chappell (No. 61), who tied for third last week at the U.S. Open.
Another rookie, Scott Stallings, is knocking on the door as well. at No. 84 in the standings.
The history of the FedExCup has shown that it takes more than just qualifying for the Playoffs to make a run at the title and the $10 million bonus, though. In the four previous season-long competitions, only three rookies total have managed to qualify for the Playoffs and advance to the finale at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola: Marc Leishman (2009); Andres Romero (2008); and Brandt Snedeker (2007). All three went on to win Rookie of the Year that season.
Of the players who were in the FedExCup top 30 entering The Barclays in 2010, all but eight continued their strong play through the Playoffs and advanced to the TOUR Championship. And while all 30 players at the TOUR Championship will have a mathematical chance to win the FedExCup, the top five in the standings control their own destiny and can win the FedExCup with a victory in Atlanta. So position in the FedExCup standings entering the Playoffs is key.
With that in mind, Bubba Watson could regain the No. 1 position the FedExCup this week at the Travelers Championship, where he won his first PGA TOUR title last year. Watson, currently No. 2, is only 38 points behind leader Luke Donald, who is idle this week. Watson gained the FedExCup lead in May when he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and held it for five weeks, until Donald took over when he tied for seventh at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
Of the other players in the current top 20 who are competing at the Travelers Championship, Nick Watney (No. 6), David Toms (No. 8), Brandt Snedeker (No. 12), Martin Laird (No. 15), Webb Simpson (No. 16), Aaron Baddeley (No. 17) and Hunter Mahan (No. 18) could take over the FedExCup lead this week. All but Watney and Toms would need a win to do so.
The Valero Texas Open has joined in the effort to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Hospital this week.
Brendan Steele, who picked up his first PGA TOUR victory in San Antonio in April, has pledged $100 to the hospital for every birdie he makes this week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The Valero Texas Open will match its defending champion's donation.
This week’s birdies project was launched by Brian Gay, who won the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2009. Several of his fellow Gaylord Sports Management clients -- Steele, Bryce Molder and Tom Pernice Jr. -- have also pledged $100 per birdie.
In addition, Phil Mickelson isn't playing in the FedEx St, Jude Classic but he is donating $100 for each of Gay's birdies. Gaylord is matching all of its clients' donations, as well.
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Don't look now but the man who won the 2008 Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation's top collegiate player is making a big move up the leaderboard at the Golden Bear’s tournament.
Kevin Chappell, who was an All-American at UCLA, set the tone for the day when he birdied his first two holes in the third round of the Memorial. He gave one back when he missed the green at the par-3 fourth but got that back -- and then some -- with a 5-foot eagle at No. 5.
Chappell got up and down from the right greenside bunker for another birdie at the par-5 seventh hole and went on to make the turn in 32. He's 6 under for the tournament and three strokes off the lead held by Steve Stricker, who tees off at 1:40.
Chappell is bidding to become the fifth rookie winner on the PGA TOUR -- and the second straight after Keegan Bradley's playoff win on Sunday. His best finish this year is a tie or second at the Valero Texas Open where he finished one stroke behind fellow rookie Brendan Steele.
Chappell led the Bruins to the 2008 NCAA title. He was the only player to break par that week at Purdue's Kampen Course, and became the first UCLA player to win the NCAA individual title.
The best videos from the first round of The Heritage. We’ll update this entry all day with new videos:
|Zach Johnson birdied from the back of the green on the first||Click to watch|
|Stewart Cink rolled in a 23-footer for birdie on the 10th||Click to watch|
|Bill Haas birdied the iconic 18th to go out in 30 on Thursday||Click to watch|
|Brendan Steele was off and running in his bid to go back-to-back||Click to watch|
|Camilo Villegas chips in from 43 feet for eagle at No. 5||Click to watch|
|Fredrik Jacobson sinks 31-foot birdie putt at No. 16||Click to watch|
|Matt Kuchar rolls in 17-foot putt at No. 12||Click to watch|
AFTER THEIR ROUNDS
|Tim Herron talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Matt Bettencourt talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Arjun Atwal talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Garrett Willis talks about his 7-under 64||Click to watch|
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Will there eventually come a day where every manufacturer’s driver is available in white?
We’re not there yet, but Cobra has joined TaylorMade in introducing a white offering for its S3 driver, on the heels of a limited-edition run of white ZL drivers last year. Those white ZL drivers – one of which Ian Poulter used to win last November in Hong Kong – actually preceded the TaylorMade white R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0, though you’re forgiven for not remembering that given the barrage of TaylorMade advertising and TOUR success.
“We’re excited to be the only brand to offer both a white and black driver model to golfers this season, complete with our latest 2011 technologies,” said Cobra-Puma Golf senior vice president/general manager Brian Zender, offering a slight zing to the fact that TaylorMade’s white sticks aren’t also available in black.
BALL MOVES: Jhonattan Vegas switched to Nike’s 20XI X golf ball for the Valero Texas Open, joining others in the Nike stable including Justin Leonard and Anthony Kim (who plays the softer S model). Tiger Woods, however, still plays the Nike One Tour D.
MIXED BAG: TOUR pros aren’t afraid to mix and match to find a winning combination, but Brendan Steele’s bag is pretty unique. In winning the Valero Texas Open, the rookie played a Titleist driver, hybrid, irons and wedges (matching his hat and bag) but also had a Callaway X-Tour 3-iron and a TaylorMade Rossa Monza Corza Mid putter.
One club that proved especially key for Steele was a 60-degree (bent to 62 degrees) Titleist Vokey wedge, which he recovered from his garage just before leaving for San Antonio. Its lower bounce proved helpful on the tight fairways of the AT&T Oaks course.