Brendan steeled with desire again at Sony Open in Hawaii
January 12, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Brendan Steele leads by three after 54 holes at the Sony Open
HONOLULU – Brendan Steele, quite simply, had had enough.
Steele had barely finished celebrating his third PGA TOUR win a few years ago at the Safeway Open – a title defense no less – when he was toasting something much bigger. The birth of his first child.
Daughter Victoria, now 2 yearsr old, was immediately the focus of his world and remains so. And so golf … well it had to take a back seat.
“Priorities kind of changed,” Steele admitted about the birth that came two weeks after winning the 2017-18 season Safeway Open on Oct. 8 in 2017.
“I was hoping that that would change in a good way, like make golf less important and make it easier. But it kind of made golf less important and less important just to where I wanted to be at home and I wasn't enjoying playing.”
He just wanted to be a dad more and more. He didn’t want to leave his new family at home so he had his little one and wife Anastassia with him on the TOUR. Traveling with a young child brings its own challenges. Coupled with what Steele says was making a lot of bad decisions in terms of who he was listening to and how he was practicing, things naturally started to dip on the course.
After finishing third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in early February of 2018 the decline began. A T10 in April at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Jamie Lovemark remains the last of his 25 career top 10 finishes.
Since then there have been 38 starts on TOUR without a top 10. But that should certainly change on Sunday at the Sony Open in Hawaii after Steele’s third round 6-under 64 saw him surge to 12 under for the week, setting up a three shot 54-hole lead over Australian Cameron Smith.
“I was dragging my family with me everywhere, and that was hard on them,” Steele added of the tough times.
“Really tough balance that we don't talk about a lot out here. I've been out here a long time. I've been a pro for 15 years now, and sometimes it just gets old.
“But I kind of relit my fire in the off-season and have been trying to work hard on my game and get the confidence back as well.”
In wet and windy conditions at Waialae Country Club this week Steele has been a machine. His +9.56 Strokes Gained: Putting through three rounds is the best of his career and leads the field. He also leads the field in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (+7.651).
Shot of the Day
Brendan Steele's eagle yielding approach is the Shot of the Day
It’s not that much of a surprise if you consider his win at the 2011Valero Texas Open was in high winds, as was one of his wins at Safeway. He now looks to improve on his conversion rate having only converted one of his previous four 54-hole leads to victory.
But Smith lurks. So does Kevin Kisner at eight under. Webb Simpson, Collin Morikawa and Ryan Palmer will start five shots back at seven under.
Smith and Kisner will join Steele in the final group feeling confident, especially if things turn into something akin to a match play scenario. Smith, chasing his first stroke play win on TOUR, has the Zurich Classic trophy with Jonas Blixt on his resume. He was also a solid performer for the International Presidents Cup team in the recent event, coming from three holes down to beat Justin Thomas in singles.
“I've come from behind before in tournaments and I'll draw from that tomorrow,” Smith said.
“Should be a nice battle. Hopefully some more conditions like this. Bit tougher conditions I think will bring a lot of people into it, so should be exciting. If we got more stuff like that I think it's not so much of a chase, it's just being smart and hopefully the putts drop.”
Kisner is the current champion of the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play. He loves the battle also. And he says playing last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, also in high winds, could be the factor that lifts him over the other two.
“I think that's the biggest key to the whole week, is seeing how the golf ball was flying last week; not coming fresh off the couch and Christmas break and trying to play in these conditions,” Kisner said.
“I told my caddie that we're going to be more prepared than most of the guys. I feel comfortable, and hopefully I can keep it going tomorrow.”
Steele will try to hold them off with his rediscovered desire and the experience bank he can tap into from the winning days.
“I expect them to come out and play a really good round tomorrow. I know that I have to go do a lot of good things. There will be no taking the foot off the accelerator. I've got to go make as many birdies as I can,” Steele added.
“It's always going to be difficult no matter what. It would be very rare to come out and birdie the first six holes and have it never be in question. So as much as I would like that, I know it's going to be tough. I'm going to have to battle. But it's nothing that I haven't seen before.”
A win would be something Victoria hasn’t seen before … and there is plenty of desire in that.