Brendan Steele is in position to take care of some unfinished business.
Steele led last year’s Sony Open in Hawaii by three shots with two holes to play but couldn’t close it out and eventually lost in a playoff to Cameron Smith. A year later, he’s right where he wants to be to exorcise that haunting defeat.
Steele posted a bogey-free, 9-under-par 61 in Saturday’s third round at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu and will take a two-shot lead into the final round. The 61 is the lowest round of the week (Kevin Na finished an hour earlier than Steele with a 61 as well). Steele obviously likes the iconic Seth Raynor design hard by the sea and has 22 birdies against just four bogeys in 54 holes.
“The first practice round we played was on the back nine and I was remembering some shots, some good and some bad, kind of kicking myself a little bit,” Steele said. “You hope that you come back and you play well and erase whatever negative memories there are, but all the memories are pretty positive.
“Playing great here last year was good, and I’m excited for the challenge tomorrow. I’m swinging really well and my course management is very good. The putts are really feeling good even if they don’t go in. I’m very happy all the way around.
“I know it’s going to be really tough. Guys are coming after me. But I’ll just do my best and hopefully it will be enough.”
Steele is right; a lot of guys are coming after him. He was one of six players who held at least a share of the lead in the third round. The final round could be similar as the leaderboard is stacked.
He is two shots clear of Na and Joaquin Niemann (63), who lost in a playoff to Harris English in last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Five players are three back at 15 under – Peter Malnati (64), Charley Hoffman (64), Chris Kirk (third consecutive 65), Russell Henley (65), and Stewart Cink (65), who won the season-opening Safeway Open.
Four back at 14 under are third-round leader Nick Taylor (68), Keith Mitchell (63), Daniel Berger (64) and Marc Leishman (65).
Four players are at 13.
In all, 16 players are within five shots of the lead, 22 within six shots.
“I know I’m going to have to go shoot a great round,” said Steele, who is looking for his fourth PGA Tour title and first since the 2017 Safeway Open. “I know it’s going to be really hard. There should be a lot of birdies out there even with the wind picking up a little bit. I know I’m going to have to shoot one of the best rounds I’ve ever shot to go win it. So that’s what I’m going to go try to do.”
After three glorious days at Waialae, conditions could be very different in the final round and it could be a soggy sprint to the finish. Tee times were moved up two hours because of the potential for late afternoon showers. As well, as Steele said, the winds are expected to strengthen.
“If it’s soft, you can be more aggressive out here,” said Hoffman. “Obviously the wind is the protector on this golf course. If the wind is blowing, par is a pretty good score. If it’s just raining and soft, I expect a lot of birdies.
“I don’t think the forecast is for too much wind, so I expect guys to still keep making birdies out here, and you’ve got to go low tomorrow and keep it going.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/16/brendan-steele-in-place-to-make-amends-leads-sony-open-in-hawaii-by-2/