Brendan Steele had two down and two up rounds at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla last week, but his fine Sunday round prevailed. The Idyllwild native finished at 2-under-par, posting 76-67-74-69 — 286 to garner a tie for 28th place and earn $38,023 in official prize money.
Steele had a tough time of it on the unforgiving South Course Thursday, ending the day way down the leaderboard at 4 over par. But he rebounded nicely on Friday, firing a 67 on the North Course, as he had done during a pre-tournament round earlier in the week, and he made the cut with a stroke to spare.
Saturday’s 74 was only 2 over par, despite a disastrous two-hole streak. The par-5 13th should have been a birdie for the long-hitting Steele, but after laying up and hitting the center of the green in three, he 3-putted for a bogey 6. On the next hole, the par-4 14th, he drove well down the left side, but his approach shot somehow got away from him and took refuge behind a huge hospitality tent.
After a free drop, he intentionally hit into the green side because of the danger of going long, but his ensuing sand shot went long anyway, spilling over the green, down a grassy slope and into a native area. He could only hit back onto the grassy slope, but then made a fine chip leaving him a only a short putt for a 7 on the hole — 13 strokes for the 13th and 14th hole combination.
But apart from those two holes, he played the South Course on Saturday 2-under-par, which would have been a nice score, given other players’ postings on the day.
The next day, Steele and his caddie of the week, good-friend Greg Wells, came back and played those same two holes with a vengeance, eagling the par-5 13th and parring the par-4 14th — six fewer strokes than had been needed the day before. Steele’s fine 69 was one of only 14 rounds in the 60s turned in on Sunday, and he moved up 26 places on the leaderboard – highest in upwards movement for the day.
Overall for the tournament, he hit 50 percent of the fairways with drives averaging 297 yards, and nailed just under 71 percent of the greens in regulation. His proximity-to-the-hole stat at 32-feet, 10 inches (a remarkable 25 feet, 5 inches on Sunday) was improved over last week, as was his 1.784 putts-per-hole percentage.
Most importantly, Steele gained 39 FedExCup points this tournament, moving him from 89th to 68th place in the point standings. He now has 147 points for this early season, which already is about 40 percent of what historically has been needed to earn a PGA Tour ticket for the following season.
This week, Steele heads east to Phoenix for the $6.2 million Waste Management Phoenix Open played on the TPC Scottsdale course in Scottsdale, Ariz. His caddie will be PGA-experienced Bobby Brown.