LA QUINTA, Calif. – Nothing is worse for a golfer than not wanting to be at the tournament he is playing. But that’s where Brendan Steele found himself during the fall start of the PGA Tour’s 2020-21 season.
“The way we are doing things right now, my family hasn’t been around very much, so no traveling for them,” Steele said. “I was really having a hard time missing them. So having the Christmas break was really helpful.”
Steele, who grew up in Idyllwild but now lives in Orange County, is showing that the break did him and his golf game a world of good. After missing three of six cuts in the fall portion of the season, Steele finished fourth at the Sony Open in Hawaii last week.
Now at The American Express, what Steele calls the closest thing to a home game he has on the PGA Tour, Steele has produced consecutive rounds of 4-under 68 and again climbed the leaderboard at The American Express.
“This place has been good to me, so whatever courses we play, whatever the format is, it’s been a good place,” said Steele, who has a second- and sixth-place finish in the desert in his 10 starts.
While Steele is tied for 12th in The American Express entering Saturday’s third round, he’s just three shots off the lead of Sungjae Im. The 68 on Friday on the Pete Dye Stadium Course was bogey free, more evidence that the break over the holiday was just what Steele needed. Steele kept the round going with two 10-foot par putts and capped the round with a tee shot to just four feet on the par-3 17th to set up his final birdie of the day.
“There was some technical stuff, too,” Steele said of his slow start in the fall. “I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as normal and that kind of crept into the rest of my game, and that made my attitude worse. And so it was just hard when I wasn’t interested in being there and wanting to be home and technically wasn’t swinging great. A bad combo.”
The fall start for this season was quite different than Steele’s 2019-20 season, when he had three top-10 finishes in 20 starts and reached the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs even after the tour had suspended play for three months because of COVID-19.
Steele’s Friday round on the Stadium Course was the first of what will be three consecutive rounds on the course. The Stadium Course is the tougher of the two courses in the event this year, but Steele seems fine with the challenge.
“You know, I think it is good in general, but there are stressful shots out there,” Steele said. “So having to do it three times is difficult for sure. You have to be in control of the ball, and you are going to make some mistakes, and they are going to cost you. But you’ve got to bounce back as well.”
Three days on the Stadium Course in four rounds is just one change for The American Express during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2021. Another change is no spectators allowed on the course during play, something that seemed almost eerie at first but doesn’t impact the players too much, Steele said.
“We’ve gotten used to it. We’ve been doing it now for seven months or something like that,” Steele said. “It’s a shame on that front, but also I’ve felt very fortunate that we are playing. So it’s really lucky.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/23/brendan-steele-pga-tour-the-american-express/