Home field advantage?
Idyllwild native Brendan Steele will take it when he tees off in the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jan. 16-22, in La Quinta.
“I always tell everybody that this is my home event, it’s the event I went to as a kid and the event where I get the most family and friend support,” says Steele, who now lives in Irvine. “I grew up playing Desert Junior Golf and Valley Junior Golf down in Temecula and Murrieta, so there are just so many fond memories. It’s a very special tournament for me, and an event where I prepare the best I can to try and put on a show.”
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He heads to the valley fresh from a PGA Tour win in October at Napa Valley’s Safeway Open. He carded a 65 on the tournament’s last day in between the raindrops to win.
The victory — his second on Tour and first since a rookie season win at the Valero Texas Open in 2011 – created a positive framework as the season unfolds. Not that the world’s 60th-ranked player is satisfied with already having qualified for The Masters Tournament in April.
“It’s obviously really nice to start the season that way, and it changes a lot of things for the next 12 months, from the schedule, to the goals, to my approach, to how I feel about my game,” says Steele.
The victory at Napa Valley’s Safeway Open was Brendan Steele’s second on the PGA Tour.
In the two tournaments following his Napa victory, Steele posted ties for 26th and 31st, respectively, at the CIMB Classic and Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open.
“It’s a fine line between getting a little bit too complacent, because I’ve got the win and want to enjoy it, and feel like it’s going to be a good year,” Steele said. “But I’ve still got to work hard, and use the win as a springboard and build on it. My goals are to put myself in a position to win, and hopefully get myself up there in the major championships and maybe get another win or two this season.”
Heading back to the desert where he finished tied for 34th at last year’s CareerBuilder Challenge, Steele and the rest of the field will have to grapple with a new rotation of courses. In 2016, the tournament moved its rotation from two private courses at PGA WEST (the Nicklaus and Palmer) over to a pair of publics (the Stadium and Nick Tournament). Tourney mainstay La Quinta Country Club remains the event’s third course.
“I didn’t mind it either way, but I probably would have preferred it just to stay the way that is was, because it had been there so long and I had a lot of great memories there,” says Steele. “But, I like the Stadium, I like the Nicklaus (Tournament). And I think my week there last year is a perfect example of what can happen on those golf courses versus playing the private courses. I was a little bit off on Sunday, shot a few over par, and that probably wouldn’t happen very often on the private courses.”
He knows the Stadium Course is particularly unforgiving.
“It just gives you a little different dynamic, makes scoring a little tougher – even though the scores will still be very low with the good weather and perfect greens,” he says. “But if you get a little bit off and get into trouble, the Stadium will make you pay. You can get around there and shoot a score, but if you get a little bit off it gives you the full punishment, and that’s indicative of most Pete Dye courses.”
Brendan Steele tied for 34th at last year’ CareerBuilder Challenge.