Steele stumbles late but sets up season with drought-breaking result
January 12, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Shot of the Day
Brendan Steele's bunker hole out is the Shot of the Day
HONOLULU – Brendan Steele knows he let one slip.
The three-time PGA TOUR winner led Sunday in the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii until it counted the most, allowing Cameron Smith to take the title in a playoff.
A bogey on the 17th hole and a wild 2-iron approach into the 18th that left the door open for Smith will grate on the 36-year-old for a while. He missed a six-foot par putt on the penultimate hole to cut his lead to one and despite a great drive on 18, his approach hooked hard left over the grandstands.
Perhaps a 15-minute wait for his shot didn’t help. Nor did the reality of Ryan Palmer’s freak bounce off a television replay board that was ultimately lost, likely out of bounds, on the right in the group ahead. After getting relief, Steele couldn’t get up and down to clinch a win.
Then after watching Smith hit a great approach from the rough on the first playoff hole to birdie range, Steele went long as he hunted the flag and was unable to get up and down for par, leaving the Australian with an easy two-putt to win.
Steele had started the round with a three-shot buffer and although he had some stumbles throughout the day, he had always bounced back from them to maintain control. Unfortunately, there would be no bouncing back from the final error.
“Obviously super bummed. Felt like it was kind of mine to win,” Steele said afterwards. “Just didn’t quite get it figured out and do it at the right time.”
But when some of the disappointment subsides, the positives will emerge from his efforts at Waialae Country Club.
First, the week gave Steele the belief he still has what it takes after entering this season concerned about keeping his PGA TOUR card. The runner-up finish is his first top-10 in an individual stroke play event in almost two years. Steele was 171st in last season’s FedExCup and is on his last year of eligibility earned via his 2017-18 season win at the Safeway Open.
He now sits 29th in the season-long standings and has set up his chance to return to the FedExCup Playoffs should his play remain solid for the remaining six months or so.
“I’d definitely be lying if I said that in the offseason I wasn’t worried a little worried about keeping my card or whether I could compete any more out here,” Steele said.
“To kind of get rid of that this week and know that I can play well… this is definitely going to be motivation for me.”
Further motivation comes from two-year-old daughter Victoria, who is starting to enjoy hanging out with dad around the game. It was her birth not long after his last win that was a contributing factor to Steele’s dip in results. But he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
You see, Steele chose to spend more time as a dad instead of on the golf course, finding valuable bonding time with his family. He never wanted to leave his wife and baby, so they had to come with him on TOUR – not always the best recipe when one hopes for uninterrupted sleep or dedicated practice time.
“Priorities kind of changed,” Steele admitted about Victoria’s 2017 arrival in nothing but a positive way.
“I was hoping that that would change in a good way (for my golf), 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.”
While he didn’t love the finish in Hawaii, he enjoyed this week. And he won’t have to wait long to try to go one better. The upcoming West Coast swing starts at The American Express in Palm Springs this week and Steele will be playing a lot in the next few weeks as the TOUR makes its way through his home state of California and nearby Arizona. He tends to play well in this five-week stretch.
“When you’re playing well you want to play. When you’re not it’s easy to want to be somewhere else,” Steele added. “Next week we go to my home event, so that’s really nice. Have a lot of friends and family support there, so I am excited to get there and try to carry some momentum.”
He’d be a very popular winner, that’s for sure.