It was there the prior afternoon that his opening round essentially imploded, as Steele rinsed a sleeve of balls en route to a quintuple-bogey 9. He added a double on the next hole for good measure, and was staring a missed cut straight in the face before his tournament truly got under way.
But Steele followed those errors with an improbable turnaround, and after a second-round 65 he’ll be sticking around for the weekend with a 2-under total.
“I felt like my game was really good, which isn’t something you normally say when you’re 7 over after eight holes,” Steele said. “But I made an eagle on 18, and that was a little bit of a turning point, a big turning point actually since I also birdied No. 1 and have been off to the races ever since.”
Steele described his opening-round disaster on 14 as “kind of fluky,” the product of a passing car rushing his pre-shot routine and an approach shot ricocheting off a pair of palm trees into another hazard. He birdied his first four holes to open the second round, and Steele’s 9-under total over the last 28 holes is impressive considering Ryan Palmer holds the tournament lead at 9-under 131.
Steele opened the season with a win in California and has been playing well ever since, fostering a positive mindset that he credited with helping erase the early errors.
“We’ve had such a good season so far, it’s easier to be a little more relaxed about it,” he said. “I told my caddie coming down 18 (Thursday), all it does is give me the opportunity to try to hit it close on every hole. We don’t have any excuses not to try to hit it close, and that’s pretty much what we did for the next 28 holes.”
Steele’s resurgence also included a birdie on his nemesis No. 14, where he found the fairway, stuck his approach and needed six fewer shots than the prior day.
“Most improved, for sure,” he said.