Brendan Steele rekindles Safeway Open success with opening 65
There’s no denying that Brendan Steele enjoys his time in wine country.
Two of Steele’s three career PGA Tour victories have come at the Safeway Open, in back-to-back fashion in 2016 and 2017. Steele had top-25 finishes the two years prior at Silverado Resort & Spa and hasn’t missed a cut in Napa since 2014. He’s unlikely to make an early exit this time around after opening his 2020-21 season with a 7-under 65 that moved him within two shots of the lead and extended his affinity with the North Course.
“People have been asking me that for years. I think there’s a lot of factors,” Steele said. “I don’t think it’s one thing, but I really have a good sense of where you can be aggressive out here, where you need to be conservative, where you can miss it to different pins. I just kind of understood it right away, which is nice. And being from California, I’m comfortable on the greens.”
Steele was bogey-free in his opening round, carding three birdies over his final five holes. Often slowed by a balky putter, he picked up nearly a shot against the field on the fickle poa annua greens while rolling in four birdie putts outside 7 feet.
Steele has not won on Tour since his successful Safeway title defense three years ago, but he came close earlier this year with a playoff loss to Cameron Smith at the Sony Open. Steele was outside the top 300 in the world rankings a year ago, but a resurgent campaign got him back inside the top 100 last month.
Steele is not in the field for next week’s U.S. Open, and he won’t punch a ticket to Winged Foot even with a third victory at Silverado. But the veteran is enjoying a return to one of his favorite Tour venues and an opportunity to begin a new campaign on the right foot.
“I always like the clean slate, too. Getting back to zero,” Steele said. “It just feels like there’s less pressure. It’s a little more freedom because everybody’s just getting their feet wet on a new season, even even though we just ended a few days ago. I think it’s just a bunch of things, but nothing I can really put my finger on.”