Courtesy of PGATOUR.COM
Brendan Steele interview after winning Safeway
NAPA, Calif. – During the award ceremony Sunday night after his second consecutive Safeway Open win, Brendan Steele saw celebrity chef Thomas Keller, who owns the award-winning The French Laundry.
On Friday night, Steele had dined at the restaurant, which is 10 miles from the Silverado course. A year ago, Steele also dined at The French Laundry on Friday night.
“The problem two years ago was I didn’t have dinner there on Friday night,” Steele said, referencing the last time he didn’t win at Silverado despite leading after 54 holes. “The last two years I had dinner there on Friday night and we got two wins out of it, so that’s definitely a tradition that’s not going to end.”
Indeed, Steele would love nothing more than to continue filling up on whatever Silverado is willing to serve him. On Sunday, it was challenging scoring conditions, with Steele leaning on his knowledge and experience to shoot a 3-under 69 – one of just seven rounds in the 60s – to rally from a two-stroke deficit to start the day. He finished at 15 under, two strokes ahead of Tony Finau, who suffered a double bogey at the 14th hole that ultimately cost him a chance to force a playoff.
After playing the front nine bogey free for the third straight day, Steele grabbed the lead for good, and then bounced back from a couple of bogeys by birdieing the par-5 16th and 18th holes. With short-game coach Chris Mason on his bag this week, Steele made the right adjustments with his club selection.
“You can’t just figure out your shot a minute before you play it while somebody else is hitting because it changes by the time that comes up,” Steele said about the wind conditions. “So you have to have a sense as you’re getting into it whether you’ve got the right club or not. … Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Today it did.”
Now Steele hopes to make the necessary adjustments that he hopes will pay off in, oh, about 10 months.
After winning the Safeway Open a year ago, Steele maintained a solid position in the FedExCup standings for the entire regular season. He was 16th entering the Playoffs but failed to reach the TOUR Championship, eventually finishing 33rd in points. In retrospect, he blamed it on a focus shift. Instead of trying to win tournaments, he was simply trying to make cuts and gain points.
“I really felt like at the end of the season through the summer, I definitely limited myself to what I was trying to achieve,” Steele explained. “I just wanted to make the TOUR Championship so bad, I was just trying to scratch and claw for every point I could … I wasn’t trying to win. I wasn’t trying to play my best. I was just trying to get whatever points I could – and I played right to that level where you could just barely miss.
“I’m definitely going to try to not do that this year and just really move forward and try to win as many tournaments as I can and get myself into contention in majors and do all the things that everybody wants to do out here.”
As for his dining plans for the Friday night of the 2018 Safeway Open? Well, The French Laundry is notoriously difficult to get a reservation, but Steele figures Keller might be able to set aside a table for the now two-time defending champ.
“I hope so,” Steele said. “I hope I didn’t do anything to get myself kicked out.”