NAPA, Calif. — Notes and observations from Sunday’s final round of the Safeway Open, with Brendan Steele winning his second PGA TOUR title by two shots. For more from Silverado Resort and Spa, check out the Daily Wrap-up.
Steele finds redemption in Napa
Brendan Steele wasn't sure if he'd ever get a chance to make up for what transpired last year at the Safeway Open. After leading wire-to-wire for 54 holes, Steele stumbled down the stretch during the final round with five bogeys over his last seven holes to fall out of contention.
"You don't often get that chance in life to redeem yourself in the same way at the same place, " Steele said.
Then Sunday afternoon came along and Steele found himself in a similar position within a shot of the lead after a birdie on the 10th hole moved him to 16 under. A bogey on the 12th made him contemplate if his round was going to turn into a repeat of last season, but Steele hung tough, producing a finish that was fit for a tournament winner.
Steele went on to birdie the last three holes to capture his first TOUR title since the 2011 Valero Texas Open. It was a win that validated the hard work he's put in over the last year with his short game — a part of his game that was on display when it mattered most.
Steele hit his approach on the 17th to within 18 feet for a must-make birdie and then followed it up on the last with a wedge from 70 yards that checked short of the hole and nestled to within seven feet for a birdie that gave him the outright lead at 18 under.
"I think my putting coming down the stretch was really the most important thing and definitely some wedge play," Steele said. "I've been working on some stuff with Dave Pelz that really helped me with the soft conditions taking spin off the ball and really controlling my numbers."
There were times over the last few years where Steele wondered if he'd ever win again, coming close but never closing the deal. Sunday proved that he's more than a one-hit wonder.
"I'd be lying if I said that maybe I was only going to win once on TOUR," Steele said. "I felt like my game was really good and I put myself in position a lot but didn't really execute coming down the stretch. I thought maybe I'm destined to just have that one win and play a long career out here but not necessarily keep winning, so this one definitely feels really good."
Na gets season off on right foot
If Kevin Na's showing at the Safeway Open is any indication, the 2016-17 TOUR season could be a good one. Just last year, Na finished runner-up to Emiliano Grillo in Napa and never fell outside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, making it all the way to the TOUR Championship third straight season.
"I want to get off to a good start," Na said, "hopefully keep my FedExCup number high. The ultimate is to lift the FedExCup trophy at the end and hopefully I'll get a win soon."
Na notched his second 66 of the week with six birdies during a bogey-free round. His birdie on the 12th moved him to 15 under for the tournament and right into contention, but he failed to add another circle to the scorecard over the last six holes.
"I played great today," Na said. "I had it 6 under early after 12 holes. With the last three holes being birdie holes, there was a couple tough holes I made pars, which I was happy. Unfortunately I fell a little short."
Mickelson ends year on high note
For Phil Mickelson, a successful season is usually defined by wins. While the 2016 edition didn't produce a trophy, Mickelson managed to close out his year in Napa on a high note that left him upbeat about his 26th season on the PGA TOUR.
Mickelson broke his streak of three straight 69's with a bogey-free 5 under 67 that saw him finish T8 at 14 under. It was Mickelson's first top-10 finish since his runner-up showing at The Open Championship.
"It was a good year to build off of," Mickelson said. "I had some good performances. My iron play came back, my wedge play, putting, it was a great putting year. A lot of really good positives that come from this year. I've got to fix my driving this offseason and I think the wins will follow."
Mickelson finished runner-up twice last season (Open Championship and FedEx St. Jude Classic) to go along with six top 10's. The season was good enough to get him back to the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2013.
"I had a couple good opportunities to do so and that's the only thing the year was lacking," Mickelson said. "Had I been able to break through and get that [Open Championship], that would have made the whole year.
Mickelson will shut it down for the rest of the year before opening 2017 in La Quinta, California at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Thomas comes up big for hurricane relief
Justin Thomas is on his way to cutting a big check for Convoy of Hope, an international non-profit that's offering humanitarian assistance in the wake of Matthew's devastation.
Thomas, who currently resides in Jupiter, Florida, announced prior to the first round that he would be donating $250 for every birdie to help with hurricane disaster relief.
With 23 birdies, Thomas raised $5,750 through his first tournament. He plans to also donate the proceeds from the birdies he makes over his next two starts at the CIMB Classic and World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Patton Kizzire attacks the pin from the tee for the Shot of the Day
CALL OF THE DAY
Brendan Steele interview after winning Safeway