Monday, January 31, 2011

Brendan Steele Scores at Torrey Pines

In his final post from Torrey Pines, Jack Clark shares Brendan's thoughts on his first PGA Tour paycheck and playing with Tiger Woods.

After 54 holes in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, both Brendan Steele and Tiger Woods were 4 under par and in a fifteen-way tie for 24th place. They squared off in Sunday’s final round in the same threesome, and 18 holes later Steele was five shots ahead.

Woods shot a three-over-par 75 and finished one under par in a tie for 44th place 15 shots behind the tournament winner, while Steele fired a two-under-par 70 and finished the tournament six under par in a tie for 17th place 10 strokes behind the winner. Steele’s performance earned him his first PGA Tour paycheck — $87,000 — in his third appearance.

Steele said that he had never played before a crowd as huge as the one that followed his group on Sunday, and he readily admitted that he had a case of nerves on the first tee after shaking hands with Tiger. He was the first to tee off on the par-4 1st hole.

The day before he had driven the ball 340 yards in the fairway, but Sunday he mis-hit his drive short and into the fairway bunker on the right side. However, he made a fine sand shot to the green to par the hole and played bogie-free the entire round while collecting pars on the par-3 11th and 16th holes.

Steele said that at first he just tried to say out of Woods’ way, not wanting to make a mistake that would interfere with the veteran player’s game, but Woods seemed willing to converse. Many times Sunday, Woods and Steele were seen engaged in conversation as they walked down fairways. “We talked a lot,” Steele said, strongly emphasizing the word lot. “He didn’t have to do that, but he did, and I really appreciate it. Tiger had a lot to do with making me feel comfortable out there.”

A reporter asked Steele how it felt to “beat Tiger.” Steele winced and said that it was not a matter of “beating” him, that he could not affect another player’s game, he could only control his own. He said that he knew that Woods did not have his best game yet, but that he was closing in on it his preparation for the Masters in April. “If Tiger had his best game and shot a 64, and I shot 66, I’d feel very good about that,” Steele said with a genuine smile.

During the post-tournament interview, Steele was clearly upbeat. He related that he had not played well at his first tournament two weeks earlier in Hawaii. He said he played fairly well last week in La Quinta, but that his mental attitude was not the best. He felt that he had both going for him this week at Torrey Pines, and with a much better result.

Next week Steele competes in the $6,100,000 Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale course in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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