Steele off to hot start at Frys.com Open
He fires a 9-under 63 to grab a one-shot advantage in the season opener
October 15, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Brendan Steele hopes to improve on his 2014-15 season in which he finished 50th in the FedExCup standings. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
NAPA, Calif. -- A few observations following Thursday’s first round of the 2015-16 PGA TOUR season-opening Frys.com Open, where Brendan Steele leads after a 9-under 63. Find out more in the Daily Wrap-up.
THINGS TO KNOW
1. STEELE-Y EYED: How Brendan Steele got to the PGA TOUR is a story in itself. He grew up in a mountain town outside Palm Springs with a population of 3,500 and no golf courses. His dad put a net in the backyard, built an artificial putting green and dug out a bunker he filled with sand from the local hardware store.
“That’s sort of where I kind of learned how to play,” Steele said. “It was just a situation where you get a club in your hand any way you can.”
Thursday, Steele’s clubs worked well enough as he birdied 7 of his first 9 holes on his way to a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead over Jhonattan Vegas at Silverado Country Club.
“Why did I shoot 63 (Thursday)?” Steele said. “Well, I think I only missed one green. I would say that's a good start.”
He also took just 26 putts, which included making a couple in the 15- to 25-foot range. Steele has added distance to his game in recent years, too, and Thursday’s score was a stroke better than anything he shot all of last season.
“As weird as it is to say, it was a basic kind of 63,” said Steele, whose lone victory on the PGA TOUR came in 2011 at the Valero Texas Open. “Today was just really solid. Just had a lot of looks and made the putts that I should make and threw a couple more on top.”
Pretty basic indeed.
2. RUSTY RORY: Rory McIlroy admitted to feeling a little flat early in his first round since the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola three weeks ago.
“I think that's more to do with the play,” he said. “We were sort of making pars and there were a lot of chances that were being missed out there.”
Earlier in the week, McIlroy worked on his putting with Dave Stockton. Thursday, though, the putts weren’t dropping. Through his first five holes, McIlroy had four pars and a bogey.
A tee shot to 3 feet on the par-3 15th helped kick start things, however, and over his final 10 holes McIlroy added four more birdies to shoot 68.
“I felt like once I got into it, I started to hit some good shots,” he said. “From tee-to-green, definitely an improvement on my last outing at the TOUR Championship, so comfortable with that.”
Not that he isn’t completely without distraction this week.
“There is a lot of stuff to do off the golf course as well,” he cracked. “Just trying to find a balance between not feeling too hung over when you tee it up the next day.”
3. CAR BROKEN INTO: Will Wilcox’s week got off to an inauspicious start when his courtesy car was broken into as part of a smash-and-grab operation at a nearby hotel in which about a half-dozen cars were hit. Luckily, his clubs were in the trunk -- the thieves made off only with his golf bag cover and some shoes.
It’s the second unfortunate incident Wilcox has endured of late with a car. At last month’s Deutsche Bank Championship, Wilcox was forced to withdraw after injuring his right knee while getting into his courtesy car. His FedExCup Playoffs ended as a result.
This time the outcome was a little better. Wilcox shot 68 and is five strokes off the lead.
4. ALL WORK, NO PLAY PAYS OFF: A lot of players took time off between the end of last season and this one, even if it was just a few days.
Not Jason Gore.
Even though Gore’s season ended after he was eliminated from the Playoffs following the Deutsche Bank Championship in early September, he never put the clubs away.
A few days after missing the cut at TPC Boston, Gore’s coach came to see him and they worked for about 10 hours every day for a week. Even when his coach left for the next Playoffs event, Gore kept at it.
The hard work seems to have paid off. Gore made four birdies, an eagle and one bogey en route to a 67.
“Just whatever happened at Wyndham just kind of whetted the palate,” said Gore, who finished second in the final event of the 2014-15 regular season. “I tried to run with that and see if I can take that a little bit of confidence I got and get better.”
He did admit to taking a little bit of a break, however.
“I took one day off,” Gore said. “Only reason I did that was it was my daughter's birthday. We had to go to the American Girl doll store. That's not even a day off.”
QUOTE OF THE DAYI haven’t seen him hit the ball this long. Even at the TOUR Championship I played with him and he was hitting it past me. That hasn’t really happened that much before.
SHOTS OF THE DAY
Lyle and Huh’s back-to-back hole outs for eagle at Frys.com Open
CALL OF THE DAY
Dennis Paulson calls Scott Langley's 64-foot birdie on No. 7 in Round 1 of the Frys.com Open.
Free play-by-play coverage of the second round streams from 2-8 p.m. ET Friday on PGATOUR.COM.