By Jeremy Harness
After his opening-round of 63 that catapulted him into the early lead, Brendan Steele has simply held firm without letting his game fluctuate. As a result, he has maintained a razor-thin lead that is in place now.
Steele shot a three-under 69 to give himself just enough room to end Saturday’s proceedings with a one-stroke advantage on the field heading into the final round.
He made his headway on the front nine, birdieing two of the first five holes before suffering a bogey at the eighth. However, just as he did on Friday, he made back-to-back birdies at the ninth and 10th holes to get things right back on track.
The 32-year-old then parred the remaining eight holes to secure his spot at the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday.
“Sundays are always tough,” said Steele, who has been on the tour for five years now. “Fridays, when you’re hanging around the cut line, and then Sundays when you’re in the lead, those are the two toughest times.
“That’s when character kind of comes out.”
On Sunday, Steele, whose only win on the PGA Tour came in the 2011 Valero Texas Open, will be paired with Andrew Loupe, who himself shot a nine-under 63 to get himself into that final group with a realistic chance to come away with his first PGA Tour win.
“Just keep the pedal to the metal,” Loupe said when asked about his mentality on Saturday. “That’s all I was trying to do. Everything just kind of felt a little bit locked in in my warmup.
“Brendan is playing great. He shot nine-under the first round. You can make birdies out here, but if you’re a shade off, you can make bogeys easily.”
Also right in the mix is Kevin Na, who has some experience being in contention in major tournaments and made it to the FedEx Cup Tour Championship the last two years. He fired an eight-under 64 by recording four birdies on the front nine and following that up with two birdies and an eagle on the back nine to head into Sunday with some real momentum.
“(Sunday), I bet they’re going to set up the golf course pretty difficult,” Na said. “There will still be plenty of good scores out there, so (I have to) keep the foot on the gas pedal.
“The course was there for the taking a little bit today, and I took advantage of it.”