Brendan Steele rallies to win PGA Tour season opener at Safeway Open
NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Brendan Steele figured out how to finish at Silverado and won the Safeway Open for his first PGA Tour victory in more than five years.
One year after losing a 54-hole lead with a 40 on the back nine, Steele rallied from a four-shot deficit on a rain-soaked course and closed with three straight birdies for a 7-under 65, giving him a one-shot victory over a faltering Patton Kizzire.
"This is a little bit of redemption from last year," Steele said. "It's nice to close it off this way."
It was a tough ending for Kizzire, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round and looked like a winner when he stuffed his tee shot into 2 feet for birdie on the 11th hole for a two-shot lead. He struggled to hit fairways, and still managed to drop only one shot on the 12th. He just couldn't keep Steele from gaining ground.
Steele holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th to tie for the lead, though Kizzire still had three scoring holes remaining — two par 5s and a wedge into a par 4.
Kizzire drove left into the base of trees on the par-5 16th and had to chip out sideways, eventually making a 15-foot par save from the bunker. With a wedge on the 17th, he left it short and watched it spin back off the green, forcing him to save par again.
His final chance was a birdie on the par-5 18th. He drove left again, had to lay up and then missed the green with a 9-iron and failed to chip in. Kizzire closed with a 70.
Johnson Wagner stayed close to Kizzire the entire back nine but had to settle for pars over the final eight holes. He closed with a 70 and tied for third with Paul Casey (69), former Cal star Michael Kim (67) and Scott Piercy (70).
Casey has finished no worse than fourth in his last four tournaments dating to the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Steele, who finished at 18-under 270, won for the first time in 141 starts on the PGA Tour dating to the Texas Open in his rookie season. And it was his first victory since the anchored stroke for long putters was outlawed at the start of the year.
"Making that transition has been a little tough," Steele said.
The victory gets him into the Masters for the only the second time, along with a spot in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua to start the year. And it got rid of that sour memory from last year when he made five bogeys in a six-hole stretch on the back nine.
"You don't often get that chance in life to really redeem yourself in the same way at the same place, and to basically do just the opposite," Steele said.
The final round was delayed two hours by rain that began soaking Silverado on Friday and led to delays the rest of the way. The third round was not completed until Sunday morning, and Kizzire made a birdie on the final hole for a 66 to take his first 54-hole lead.
And for the longest time, he made it last.
Piercy fell back with a pair of bogeys at the end of the front nine. Casey also dropped careless shots. Justin Thomas, who birdied the last two holes on Friday to make the cut on the number, went out in 32 and was on the verge of getting in the mix until he missed three straight putts inside 6 feet to start the back nine. He still overcame an opening round of 75 — with two triple bogeys — by going 66-66-67 to tie for eighth.
Phil Mickelson had his chances, too.
In his first domestic fall PGA Tour event in a decade, Mickelson was poised to make a charge on the back nine until missing too many chances. He closed with a 67 and tied for eighth. Mickelson has finished in the top 10 in one-third of his 549 career starts on tour.
Kizzire did well to stay in the game. After his bogey from a fairway bunker on No. 12, Kizzire holed a 15-foot par putt on the 14th after driving under a tree, made another 15-footer on the par-5 16th and a nervy 5-footer for par on the 17th to keep his hopes alive.
He just couldn't make birdie, and it cost him.
This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.