Brendan Steele looks solid going into final round of US PGA Championship
ATLANTA, GEORGIA // With a little bit of help from his friends, Brendan Steele has made a mockery of his major debut at this week's US PGA Championship where he holds a share of the lead going into Sunday's final round.
The 28 year old has looked every inch a veteran of grand slam golf on a difficult layout at Atlanta Athletic Club, carding rounds of 69, 68 and 66 to take control at the top with fellow American Jason Dufner.
Mentored in his PGA Tour rookie season by the four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, Steele has learnt how to prepare for the big events and he also gained valuable swing tips from his good friend Scott Piercy earlier this week.
Whatever pans out on today's final round, the world No 121 Steele is living a dream which, so far, has certainly fulfilled all of his expectations.
"To have a chance to actually win in my first major is really something special," Steele said after sinking several lengthy putts on the way to a seven-under total of 203 on the Highland course.
"It was nice to play well today, to roll some putts in and put myself in a good position. Everything has been new this week and I've been very excited just to be here."
Steele won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Texas Open in April in only his 12th event on the circuit, a breakthrough which has helped him handle all the pressure so far this week.
"That [win] kind of blew my mind and put me in a comfort zone out here a little more," the Californian said.
"Probably it will be different for a major championship, but it's still golf in the end. If I play well, then I expect to have a good day tomorrow. And if it's enough to win, then that'll be fantastic."
Steele began this week with his swing in disarray.
"I've been struggling with my ball striking, always the best part of my game, for the last couple of weeks," he said. "And it kind of carried over into the start of this week.
"I thought I found something, then it would be fleeting. It would kind of go back and forth. I was talking to my coach on the phone, just trying to kind of figure it out."
Steele then played nine holes with Piercy, who he has known since their days together on the satellite Nationwide Tour, and that made the difference.
"He knows my swing pretty well and we talked about it when we were playing," Steele said. "I went and hit a few balls after we played, and it started clicking on Thursday a little bit.
"I hit it really good yesterday, and then still pretty good today. So hopefully it hangs on for another day, at least."
Steele, who had never played on the PGA Tour until this year, has also benefited hugely from the regular advice given to him by the American world No 6 Mickelson.
"He's helped me tremendously," Steele said of his fellow Californian. "He's taught me about how to prepare my body for the week and to make sure I didn't do anything too strenuous.
"A lot of the young guys kind of get out and we want to play a lot of practice rounds and hit a lot of balls and by Thursday we are kind of worn out.
"He taught me the first time I played with him just to take it a little bit easier. I played nine holes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I didn't even play a full 18. I just tried to get it through the heat and make it a little bit easier on my body."
Published: August 14, 2011 04:00 AM