Brendan Steele’s superfan — André Pilon, who flew to the desert from Montreal with his equally superfan wife Pierrette Filion — says that Steele was consistently hitting pin-point irons during his practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Humana Challenge in La Quinta last week. The Idyllwild native was high on his game then, too, stating that even Thursday morning on the practice tee everything was clicking.
But minutes later on the first tee of the first round, it somehow vanished.
Steele struggled through the first 27 holes on Thursday and Friday. He managed to be only even par at the turn on Friday. His fellow pros were shredding all three courses.
He pulled his Friday second nine together well enough to finish the second day two-under-par, thanks to sinking a 30-foot putt at La Quinta Country Club’s 18th hole. This and the 45-footer, which he had canned at Palmer Private’s 14th hole on Thursday, helped his score immensely.
But that only left him in 130th place, well below the projected cut line.
Fortunately, the cut comes after three days at Humana, not the usual two, because the tournament is played on three different courses, with each player playing each course during the first three days. Still, it appeared that Steele would need a near-miracle round of 65 on Saturday just to get to the nine-under-par projected cut line by Saturday night.
During that third round, it became evident that even nine under par would not be good enough to make the cut for Sunday — ten under par would be needed.
So Steele had to shoot an eight-under-par round of 64 on Saturday, just to be able to play the next day.
By the halfway point on Saturday, Steele had accumulated four birdies against one bogey to pick up three strokes and stand at five-under-par for the tournament. He still needed five more birdies during Saturdays closing nine.
What developed was a wild, nerve-wracking ride for spectators. Steele parred the first hole of that final nine, then ripped off four consecutive birdies, followed by a bogey, then two more birdies — six birdies in seven holes — to make the cut on the number.
On Sunday, Steele finished with a fine five-under-par 67 to post a fifteen-under-par 72-70-64-67 — 273 for the tournament. He won $12,432 in prize money and a dozen FedEx Cup points. He will go into this week’s Farmer’s Insurance Open coming off solid play on his 45 final holes at the Humana.
During a post-tournament interview, Steele said that he feels far more comfortable on the tour this year compared to 2011, his first year. But this year, just as that first year, he has the pressure of playing to gain playing privileges for next year.
It makes a huge difference, he said, that he knows the courses so much better, and it’s even a big help knowing the non-golf issues such as airports, hotels, restaurants, and other facets of a playing professional’s life on the road.
Steele also has a new caddie this year. Long-time British caddie Mick Doran (pronounced DORE-en) has looped for several top PGA pros. Steele said Doran is a strong caddie who knows when his advice is needed and (when Steele is playing well) when to leave him alone.
In other news, Steele’s fellow PGA Tour pros just recently elected him to the 16-person Player’s Advisory Council for 2013. The PAC has input regarding various matters affecting the PGA touring pros.
One specific current issue is the implementation of the new rule that will ban so-called anchored putters in 2016. Steele himself currently plays with a belly putter (which is “anchored” to his abdomen).
He does not understand the logic of the USGA waiting well over a decade after players began winning some tournaments with such putters before deciding to ban them. Even though Steele does not personally favor the ban, he states that he will represent the will of the players as a whole while serving on the PAC.
Steele will tee it up this Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open on the Torrey Pines course in La Jolla. His tee times for the first two days can be found at pgatour.com.