REUTERS - A year after squandering victory, Brendan Steele gained redemption when he birdied the final three holes to snatch a one-stroke victory at the Safeway Open in northern California on Sunday.
Cycling fan Steele, hardly sighted on the leaderboard all week, timed his finishing sprint perfectly with a seven-under-par 65 at a soggy Silverado Resort in Napa.
He sank a seven-footer at the last to finish at 18-under 270 and claim his second PGA Tour victory, five years after winning the 2011 Texas Open.
Third-round leader Patton Kizzire (70) made a mess of the par-five 18th, but salvaged a par to claim second place on 17-under in the opening event of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season.
Californian Steele, 33, was delighted for several reasons, not least because it was his first victory since ditching the long putter.
“Home state (and) now I’m going back to the Masters,” he told Golf Channel.
“First one with the short putter, too. I’m really proud of that. Making that transition’s been a little tough. That’s all amazing.”
Steele’s victory came on the same course where he held the 54-hole lead last year but could not close the deal, eventually finishing equal 17th.
”This is a little redemption for last year,“ he said. ”I had the lead and bogeyed five of the last seven.
“It’s nice to close it off this way. I thought maybe I was only going to win once on the tour. I put myself in position a lot but didn’t really execute down the stretch.”
Steele’s fast finish started with a tap-in birdie at the par-five 16th, before he curled an 18-footer in the side door at the par-four 17th.
Runner-up Kizzire was wayward off the tee, but putted well enough to stay in contention until the end.
“My ball-striking wasn’t there all week,” he said. “My putting is what saved me. I didn’t finish off. I’m really disappointed.”
Englishman Paul Casey (69) finished in a four-way tie for third, two strokes off the pace.
It was his fourth consecutive top-four finish without victory.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom