Steele leads Open by two shots


The overnight leader in Napa, Brendan Steele remains on top of the leaderboard at the season-opening Open. Here is how things stand after two days in wine country:

Leaderboard: Steele (-11), Jhonattan Vegas (-9), Will Wilcox (-9), Graham DeLaet (-9), Harold Varner III (-9)

What it means: This is Steele’s first outright 36-hole lead on Tour. He followed up his opening-round 9-under 63 with a 2-under-par 70. After four top-10 finishes last year, including a runner-up at the Humana, he is in search of his second Tour win and first since 2011. Two back, Wilcox, DeLaet and the rookie Varner are all in search of their first Tour win. Vegas is a previous winner playing on an exemption after losing his PGA Tour card two weeks ago when he fell out of the Finals' top 25. A victory this week comes with a card through the end of the 2017-18 season.

Round of the day: Colt Knost and James Hahn both turned in rounds of 6-under 66. Both players made a pair of bogeys. Hahn made eight birdies to make up for his errors, while Knost erased them in a single hole, with an eagle at the par-5 16th.

Best of the rest: Three players – Wilcox, Adam Hadwin and Michael Kim – posted 5-under 67s. Wilcox, whose best previous finish was a runner-up at last year’s Barbasol Championship, is playing his first season as a full member after playing the last two with conditional status.

Biggest disappointment: Fresh off a flight from South Korea, International Presidents Cup team member Steven Bowditch failed to make the 2-under cut at 1 over. Other notables heading home include Brendon de Jonge, Camilo Villegas, Sam Saunders, Ryan Palmer, Matt Jones, Ryo Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy.

Shot of the day: This bunker hole-out for birdie at the 16th helped Martin Laird post a 1-under 71 and stay in the mix at 8 under, three off the pace.

Storyline to watch this weekend: Two of the top 10 players in the world are within striking distance. World No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who continues to battle his putter, sits six back after rounds of 68-71. Justin Rose, who played the first two days with McIlroy and Brandt Snedeker, is only three back at 8 under.