Mo Yoshimoto

The Takeaway

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Steele back-to-back in Napa

Monday, October 9, 2017

Safeway Open

Napa, CA



Beginning the final round two strokes back and playing out of the penultimate threesome, defending champ and World No. 59 Brendan Steele authored a 3-under-par 33-36=69 on Sunday at Silverado Resort & Spa to reach 15-under 273, good for a two-shot victory over runner-up Tony Finau.


The 34-year-old, a pre-tourney 22/1 outright, bags his third PGA TOUR title in his 178th career event, second in come-from-behind fashion. Last year, he came from four back with 7-under 65 to win by one (as a 40/1 outright).


Finau, who also closed with 69 out of the fourth-to-last threesome, nabs his first career runner-up finish in his 92nd career start and his third overall top-3 finish (P1, 2016 Puerto Rico Open; T3, 2017 Valero Texas Open).


Phil Mickelson (70) and Chesson Hadley (73) shared 3rd place, three adrift, while Graham DeLaet (72) and PGA TOUR rookie Tyler Duncan (75) tied for 5th place, four back.



Final Leaderboard:


1st- Brendan Steele (-15) 65-67-72-69= 273

2nd- Tony Finau (-13) 70-65-71-69= 275

T3- Phil Mickelson (-12) 69-69-68-70= 276

T3- Chesson Hadley (-12) 72-61-70-73= 276

T5- Graham DeLaet (-11) 69-67-69-72= 277

T5- Tyler Duncan (-11) 65-66-71-75= 277



Steele collects 500 FedExCup (FEC) points for the victory and begins the season same as he did the last, No. 1 in the FEC standings.


He held that No. 1-ranking in FEC points for exactly one week, getting bumped to No. 2 by CIMB Classic winner and eventual FEC champ Justin Thomas.


Thomas finished T8 at last year’s Safeway before successfully defending the CIMB, but did not play the Safeway this year.


Steele is in the published field for this coming week’s CIMB, where he finished T26 last year, as is Thomas, who’s going for a turkey in Malaysia.



Steele’s three wins:



2018: Safeway (come from behind, two-shot deficit)

Shot: 3-under 69

Winning Margin: 2 shots

Career Start: 178


2017: Safeway (come from behind, four-shot deficit)

Shot: 7-under 65

Winning Margin: 1 shot

Career Start: 153


2011: Valero Texas Open (54-hole leader by one)

Shot: 1-under 71

Winning Margin: 1 shot

Career Start: 12 (rookie season)



Steele, a first-round co-leader, is now 1-for-6 when leading/co-leading after 18 holes. All three of his wins have come on par-72 courses.



Steele at the Safeway:


7 starts

5 made cuts

2 missed cuts


5 top 25s

3 top 10s

2 top 5s

2 wins



The Californian is clearly comfortable in his home state. Since the tourney moved to Silverado in 2015, he’s a cumulative 50-under-par in 16 rounds – the most under par of anyone – and has toured 15 of those 16 laps at par or better, 13 in the red.


He’s been in the top 6 thru 54 holes in each of the last three editions.


2016: 54-hole leader by one, 4-over 76, finished T17

2017: began R4 four back (T6), 7-under 65, won by one

2018: began R4 two back (T3), 3-under 69, won by two



Steele concluded last season, his seventh consecutive on TOUR, a career-best 33rd in the final FEC standings with four top 10s in 25 starts. His previous best FEC finish was 50th in 2015.


The UC-Riverside alum advanced to the 3rd leg of the Playoffs for a fifth time, exiting with a T44 at the BMW Championship, where he was T6 thru 36 holes (68-66-72-72).


Since the beginning of last season, he is the fifth player to successfully defend their title, joining Justin Thomas (CIMB), Hideki Matsuyama (WMPO), Daniel Berger (FedEx St. Jude) and Jhonattan Vegas (Canadian Open).




Field Scoring Average:



This was the 11th playing of the Safeway, fourth consecutive at Silverado:


7,166 yards; par 72 (36-36)



R1: 71.965

R2: 71.035

R3: 70.787

R4: 73.693


Total: 71.757


Note: Sunny skies for all four rounds but R4 saw a NNE wind 15-25 mph, gusting to 30



Steele: 65-67-72-69 for 14.480 SG: Total


Note: His winning SG: Total last year: 12.745




Steele’s Position by Round:


R1: T1

R2: 2nd   

R3: T3




How Steele Won on Sunday:



Trailing rookie Duncan by two, who led/co-led after each of the first three rounds, Steele hit eight (of 14) fairways and 12 greens in regulation (GIR), gaining 1.700 off-the-tee and 2.959 tee-to-green.


He went out in blemish-free 3-under, circling holes 4, 7 and 9 to reach 15-under, and by the time the trail group made the turn, Steele was leading Finau and Hadley by two, four clear of Duncan and Cauley, the latter three comprising the final threesome.


Steele retreated one with bogey at 12, now tied with Finau, who had circled the 13th as was bogey-free 4-under to that point.


Steele dropped another shot at 14 (bogey-save from 7’6”), but Finau had already ate double bogey-6 on the same hole after an errant drive and pitch out into a sand-filled divot. Steele 1 UP.


Similar to last year, where he birdied the final three holes, Steele would circle birdie-4s at 16 and 18, while Finau mustered a closing 2-putt birdie-4 for the final margin. He posted 1.750 putts per GIR and 1.734 SG: Putting with 28 total putts.


Mickelson, who began four back, was hoping for an early charge and didn’t get it.


Playing out of the third-to-last threesome, he went out in 1-over, but came home in 3-under for his 103rd career top-3 finish (571 starts) and his best finish on TOUR since solo 2nd at the 2016 Open Championship.


At 30th in OWGR, the Hall of Famer was the top-ranked player in the field and the pre-tourney fave outright (14/1).


Dating back to T6 at the Dell five weeks and three starts ago, the 47-year-old has put 12 straight in the red for three straight top-20 finishes. At the Dell, he was the only player to record all four rounds in the 60s. Mickelson co-led the field this week in total birdies with 23.


Hadley was in the mix after an even-par first half, but a 3-putt bogey at 10 and double bogey-6 at 12 (tee ball OB) knocked him off the pace. Making his 97th career start, the Tour grad, No. 1 in the Priority Rankings, recorded his second career top-3 finish (Won, 2014 Puerto Rico Open). He was T1 in total birdies.


DeLaet conjured an even-par 37-35 for his first top 5 since T5 at the 2016 Valspar. His last five starts on TOUR read: WD-T7-WD-T75-T5.  


Duncan, making just his second career TOUR start (MC, 2015 U.S. Open), went out in 3-over before mustering and even-par back side.


Of the final four groups (12 players), only Steele, Finau and Mickelson posted sub-par rounds.




R4 Stats Comparison (ranking of 75 players):



SG: Off-the-Tee:

Steele: 1.700 (4th)

Duncan: 1.165 (12th)


SG: Approach-the-Green:

Steele: 0.863 (29th)

Duncan: -3.058 (72nd)



Steele: 38’4” (20th)

Duncan: 51’2” (67th)


SG: Around-the-Green:

Steele: 0.396 (32nd)

Duncan: 1.562 (6th)


SG: Putting:

Steele: 1.734 (11th)

Duncan: -0.976 (53rd)


SG: Total:

Steele: 4.693 (T2)

Duncan: -1.307 (T49)




How Steele Won the Tournament:



Ranked 1st in SG: Off-the-Tee; SG: Tee-to-Green; All Around; T1 Par-5 Scoring

Ranked T2 in Total Bogeys



Steele’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 75 players):



Eagles: 1 (T3)

Birdies: 19 (T5)

Bogeys: 6 (T2)


Par-3 Scoring: 3.06 (T25)

Par-4 Scoring: 3.88 (T3)

Par-5 Scoring: 4.31 (T1)


Driving Distance (all drives): 292.0 yards (T16)

Driving Accuracy: 38/56 (T3) at 67.86%

GIR: 57/72 (4th) at 79.17%

Proximity: 29’0” (6th)

Putts per GIR: 1.807 (60th)

Total Putts: 121 (T61)

Putts by Round: 32-30-31-28

Scrambling: 11/15 (7th) at 73.33%

All Around: (1st)


SG: Off-the-Tee: 6.165 (1st)

SG: Approach-the-Green: 6.358 (3rd)

SG: Around-the-Green: -0.283 (48th)

SG: Putting: 2.241 (29th)

SG: Tee-to-Green: 12.239 (1st)




Updated Top 10 in Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR):



With a Strength of Field rating of 115 (down from 198 last year), Steele banks 26.00 world-ranking points and climbs 12 places to a career-high 47th in OWGR.



1. Dustin Johnson

2. Jordan Spieth

3. Hideki Matsuyama

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jon Rahm

6. Rory McIlroy

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Henrik Stenson

9. Jason Day

10. Brooks Koepka (UP one)



Note: The Safeway was the weakest full-tournament field since this same tourney last year. The average OWGR was 304th and the average OWGR for the top-10 finishers was 182nd.



Notable Career Highs in OWGR:


Steele: 47th (up 12)

Finau: 43rd (up six)

Duncan: 375th (up 79)







Last season, 33 (of 47) tourneys had a traditional draw:





EARLY/late: 21 (63.6%)


LATE/early: 12



Steele begins the 2017-18 campaign with another one in the EARLY/late column, his second win in a row from that side of the draw.


Before Steele, the previous four Safeway champs (Grillo, Bae, Walker, Blixt) were all LATE/early, so Steele likes to kick off early in Napa.  


A total of 75 pros from a field of 143 pros and one amateur made the 36-hole cut of 1-under 143:



43 (of 70) EARLY/late; 2 WDs


32 (of 72) LATE/early



12 players finished in the top 10:



9 EARLY/late: Brendan Steele (Won), Tony Finau (2nd), Chesson Hadley (T3), Graham DeLaet (T5), Tyler Duncan (T5), Andrew Landry (T7), Bud Cauley (T7), Tyrone Van Aswegen (T9), Nick Taylor (T9)


3 LATE/early: Phil Mickelson (T3), Grayson Murray (T9), Brandon Harkins (T9)




Low Rounds:



R1: Brendan Steele, Tyler Duncan, Tom Hoge (65)

R2: Chesson Hadley (61)

R3: Ted Potter, Jr. (65)

R4: Brandon Harkins (68)


Note: Hadley’s 61 is a career low and course record (tied tournament record)




Bogey-free Rounds:



R1: Tom Hoge (65), Emiliano Grillo (67), Ryan Moore (68), Zac Blair (69), Brian Davis (70), Harris English (70)

R2: Bill Haas (65), Tony Finau (65), Andrew Putnam (66), Zac Blair (66), Sung Kang (68), Bud Cauley (69), Corey Conners (69), Luke List (70)

R3: Ted Potter, Jr. (65), Bud Cauley (66), Chris Kirk (68), Martin Laird (69), Bronson Burgoon (69)

R4: None




Leader/co-leaders by Round:



R1: Brendan Steele (Won): Improves to 1-for-6 as 18-hole leader/co-leader

R1: Tyler Duncan (T5): Drops to 0-for-1

R1: Tom Hoge (T37): Drops to 0-for-4


R2: Tyler Duncan (T5): Drops to 0-for-1 as 36-hole leader/co-leader


R3: Tyler Duncan (T5): Drops to 0-for-1 as 54-hole leader/co-leader




TOUR Rookies &/or First-Timers:



TOUR Rookies: 22

Top-10 finishes: 2



Tyler Duncan: The 28-year-old claims top-rookie honors with T5 on 11-under 277. He entered 23rd in the Tour Priority Rankings with eight top 25s among 13 cuts made in 20 starts last season, four of those top 10s.


The Purdue alum, who’s getting married Oct. 21st, ending the WCT season with six top 25s in his last eight starts and two top 10s. His best in 70 career WCT starts is runner-up two times.


Brandon Harkins: Making his tournament debut, the 31-year-old finished T9 on 9-under 279 (72-70-69-68), highlighted by the low lap of the day on Sunday. He entered 44th in the WCT Priority Rankings with six top 25s among 15 cuts made in 25 starts, four of those top 10s.


The California native and California State University-Chico alum’s best in 27 career starts on the junior circuit is runner-up one time. This was his second career TOUR start (T59, 2016 U.S. Open).




First-Timers: 34

Top-10 finishes: 3



Duncan was top debutant, joined in the top 10 by Harkins and:


Andrew Landry: The 30-year-old finished a career-TOUR-best T7 on 10-under 278 (71-69-69-69). He entered 4th in the WCT Priority Rankings with 13 top 25s among 20 cashes in 22 starts, eight of those top 10s.


The Arkansas alum had seven top-5 finishes, including two in the first two Finals events. This is his second season on TOUR, finishing 178th in the FEC standings in 2016 with one top 10 in 18 starts.


You may recall that the Texan led the 2016 U.S. Open after R1 and was solo 2nd and T2 thru 36 and 54 holes, respectively, before finishing T15 (66-71-70-78). His previous best in 19 prior career TOUR starts was T8 at the 2016 John Deere.




Consecutive Top 10s on TOUR:



Jordan Spieth (T7-T7-2-P2)

Jon Rahm (T7-T5-T4-T3)

Justin Rose (T10-T2-T10-T10)

Tony Finau (2-T7-T7)

Matt Kuchar (T10-T5)




Consecutive Top-10 streaks ended:







Field Breakdown:



0 of the Top 25 in OWGR were in the field


6 of the Top 50


2 finished in the top 10:



No. 30 Phil Mickelson (T3)

No. 49 Tony Finau (2nd)



Other Top-10 Finishers:


No. 59 Brendan Steele (Won)

No. 93 Grayson Murray (T9)

No. 102 Graham DeLaet (T5)

No. 105 Bud Cauley (T7)

No. 127 Chesson Hadley (T3)

No. 194 Andrew Landry (T7)

No. 215 Nick Taylor (T9)

No. 339 Tyrone Van Aswegen (T9)

No. 422 Brandon Harkins (T9)

No. 454 Tyler Duncan (T5)



Other Notables:


No. 36 Webb Simpson (T17)

No. 39 Bill Haas (T17)

No. 43 Zach Johnson (T13)

No. 46 Ryan Moore (T17)







You can find Mo on Twitter @Bears3423.
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