Steele fires 65 for share of Safeway Open’s lead

Eric Risberg/Associated Press Brendan Steele had an eagle in his round of 65 in the Safeway Open that helped him share the first round lead with Tyler Duncan and Tom Hoge on Thursday.

NAPA, Calif. — Brendan Steele opened his Safeway Open title defense Thursday with 7-under-par 65 for a share of the lead with Tyler Duncan and Tom Hoge in the PGA Tour’s season opener.


Former Clemson golfer Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie, Emiliano Grillo and Jamie Lovemark were two shots back.

Steele had an eagle, six birdies and a bogey. Last year at Silverado, he birdied the final three holes to overcome a four-shot deficit and beat Patton Kizzire by a stroke for his second PGA Tour title.

“A little bit of everything worked for me today,” Steele said. “I had a really good ball-striking day. I don’t think I missed a green, so that really helps. And then I had a good putting day as well, so you put that together and it’s going to be pretty good.

Duncan, making his first start as a PGA Tour member, also had six birdies, an eagle and a bogey.

Hoge, beginning his fourth PGA Tour season, had seven birdies. He had a back-nine 30 with six birdies.

Steele didn’t miss a green in regulation.

Zach Johnson, the 12-time PGA Tour winner playing the event for the first time, had 68 with five birdies and a bogey.

“I love it. I liked to the moment I stepped foot on it,” said Johnson, whose last title was the 2015 British Open. “You can’t fake it around here. It’s right out in front of you. There are a couple of tee shots and a couple of approaches where you have to pay attention. It’s a very classic golf course.”

Phil Mickelson, the 42-time PGA Tour winner beginning his 27th PGA Tour season, birdied the 18th from 7 feet for 69. The 47-year-old Mickelson, playing in his 91st PGA Tour event since his last title at the 2013 British Open, had five birdies and two bogeys.

European Tour: In St. Andrews, Scotland, Paul Dunne picked up where he left off at Newcastle-upon-Tyne as he led the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with Nicolas Colsaerts after the first round.

Four days after winning the British Masters, Dunne shot 5-under-par 67 in the three-course event on the Old Course. Colsaerts’ 67, which represented a strong recovery after a triple-bogey 7 at the third, came at Kingsbarns.

Five players were in a tie for third, including defending champion Tyrell Hatton, Oliver Fisher and Shane Lowry. They also began at St. Andrews.

Ten players were on 3-under, including Ben Evans and David Drysdale, who recorded the best scores at the third course being used, Carnoustie, along with Joakim Lagergren.

Rory McIlroy, who was playing alongside his father Gerry in the pro-am, carded 73 at St. Andrews. McIlroy was 3-over before he finished with birdies at the 14th and 18th. It would have been better had eagle putts at the ninth and 18th rolled in.

Exemptions added: The USGA’s junior amateur champions and mid-amateur champions are now exempt into the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open.

The change is effective for the 2018 championships.

The USGA says amateur golf is central to its mission and that adding these four winners to the men’s and women’s Opens affirms its support of amateur golf.

Noah Goodwin won the U.S. Junior Amateur and will not have to qualify for the U.S. Open next year at Shinnecock Hills. Erica Shepherd won the U.S. Girls’ Junior title. She will be in the U.S. Women’s Open next spring at Shoal Creek.

The U.S. Mid-Amateur and Women’s Mid-Amateur champions will be decided over the next few months.

With the change, the two Opens now offer exemptions to six amateur categories.

Sponsor’s extension: Valero Energy has signed a 10-year extension as title sponsor of the PGA Tour’s Texas Open.

The deal announced Wednesday runs through 2028.

In 2019, the first year of the extension, the event will be played the week before the Masters Tournament.

The 2018 tournament is set for April 19-22 – two weeks after the Masters – at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course.

The event was first played in 1922, making it the third-oldest regular tour event. Valero took over as title sponsor in 2002.



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