By Jay Betsill
Brendan Steele owned the 54-hole lead last year at the season-opening event at the Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa, but could not close the deal with a final round 76. This year, the 2011 Valero Texas Open champion finished with a 65 including three straight birdies to win the Safeway Open for his second PGA Tour title.
Steele began the last round four shots behind Patton Kizzire, but his birdie barrage on the front nine put him in front and he posted 18-under before waiting to see if Kizzire, Johnson Wagner or Paul Casey would be able to catch him on the rain-soaked golf course.
“This is a little bit of redemption from last year,” Steele said. “It’s nice to close it off this way.”
In addition to the $1.08 million first prize, the victory gets Steele into the Masters for the only the second time in his PGA Tour career. He also earned a spot in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua and The Players Championship.
“You don’t often get that chance in life to really redeem yourself in the same way at the same place, and to basically do just the opposite,” Steele said.
By virtue of winning the season-opening event, Steele also takes the lead in the season-long FedEx Cup points race.
While the big story leading into the Safeway Open was the commitment and subsequent withdrawal of Tiger Woods, the prevailing news of the week was the rain, which caused multiple delays and had the golfers playing with preferred lies after the third round was not completed until Sunday morning.
Although Woods did not play, Phil Mickelson was in the field, competing in his first fall PGA Tour event in 10 years. His four rounds in the 60s were good enough for a top 10 finish, a tie for 8th with Justin Thomas and past Colonial champion Chris Kirk.
Next up on the PGA Tour is the CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur (West) in Malaysia. The limited field of just 78 players includes Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Brendan Steele, Ian Poulter, two-time CIMB Classic champion Ryan Moore, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey and defending champion Justin Thomas.