Two weeks ago, Brendan Steele missed the cut by one stroke at The Barclays, the first of the four FedEx Cup playoff tournaments that conclude this 2013 PGA Tour season. However, the Idyllwild native still had enough points in the bank to tee it up last week in Boston at the Deutsch Bank Championship, the second tournament of the playoff series.
Steele entered the Deutsch Bank in 89th place on the FedEx Cup points list, and needed to improve 19 positions to advance to the third FedEx Cup tournament, the BMW Championship, since only the top 70 players on the list would advance. To do that he would have to finish somewhere in the top 20 at the Deutsch Bank.
But standing on the 15th tee, with only four holes left to play in Monday’s final round, Steele was 8 under par for the tournament and projected to finish 89th on the FedEx Cup list, ending his season. He needed to look only a few feet away to his playing partner, four-time Major winner and South African great Ernie Els, to see what he had to do.
Els had entered the Deutsch Bank in 91st place on the FedEx point list, but standing on the 15th tee he was 12 under par for the tournament and had worked his way up to 70th position on the list. He was the man “on the bubble.” If Els parred out the remaining four holes, Steele was going to have to birdie all four of them to bump Els off the list and take over that final spot for himself.
“I knew that I needed some serious birdies there,” Steele told the Boston Globe. “I knew I started a point in front of Ernie, so I needed to at least get tied with him, maybe, for the last spot. So I was trying to chase him down, for sure.”
Well, Els did par out the last four holes, playing them in 4-3-4-5. And on the par-4 15th, Steele sank an 11 footer for birdie. On the 161-yard, par-3 16th, he missed a hole-in-one by 17 inches and tapped in for birdie. On the par-4 17th, he put his approach shot 4 feet, 8 inches from the cup and sank it for the bird. And Steele reached the 530-yard par-5 18th in two, then two-putted from 43 feet for his fourth consecutive birdie.
Steele had played the final four holes in 3-2-3-4 to join Els at 12 under for the tournament and knock the South African into 71st position on the FedEx Cup list and out of the playoffs.
If Els completely realized what had just happened, it must have been hard to smile while shaking Steele’s hand on the 18th green. Fortunately for any future friendship they may have, 20 minutes later an unfortunate K.J. Choi bogeyed his final hole and dropped to 73rd on the FedEx Cup point list, which jumped Steele to 69th and Els back into 70th on the list.
So both Steele and Els will play in next week’s BMW Championship. They both know it will take a heroic performance to advance to the final FedEx Cup tournament, the Tour Championship by Coca Cola. To earn enough points for that, they may have to finish well into the top five this week. Still, it is a fine accomplishment just to play in the BMW.
Of almost secondary importance, Steele earned another $100,000 last week, bringing this year’s official money earnings to $986,721. So even just making the cut this week will put him over $1 million for the season.