Steele takes early RBC lead; Kuchar 1 back


As play got underway Thursday in the biggest professional golf event north of the border, Brendan Steele grabbed an early advantage thanks to a 7-under 65 at Glen Abbey. Here's the skinny heading into the second round of the RBC Canadian Open, where Steele leads by one shot over a trio of golfers that includes former Players champion Matt Kuchar:

Leaderboard: Brendan Steele (-7), Matt Kuchar (-6), Scott Brown (-6), Scott Gardiner (-6), David Lingmerth (-5), Hunter Mahan (-5), Bubba Watson (-4)

What it means: After a string of six straight missed cuts earlier this summer and with only one top-10 finish to his credit this season, Steele is in dire need of a strong week. He's played his way into position early, but will need to capitalize on the momentum from Thursday's round if he hopes to contend this weekend for his first PGA Tour title since the 2011 Valero Texas Open.

Round of the day: Starting on the 10th hole, Steele birdied three of his first seven holes but didn't truly heat up until he made the turn. Birdies on Nos. 1-2 were followed by three more across a four-hole stretch from Nos. 4-7 to reach 8 under on his round at one point. Despite a closing bogey, Steele fired the lowest score of the day and his 65 matched the lowest score he's shot on Tour since the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.

Best of the rest: Since winning the Puerto Rico Open in March, Brown has failed to produce a notable result, and just last week missed the cut at Muirfield after rounds of 79-81. Things turned around quickly, though, as the 30-year-old carded a bogey-free 66 Thursday at Glen Abbey. At 6 under, he sits one shot behind Steele and alongside Kuchar, whose round included an eagle at the par-5 18th, and Gardiner, who surged up the leaderboard Thursday morning thanks to a run of six straight birdies from Nos. 2-7.

Biggest disappointment: After playing his way into contention through 36 holes at the British Open, Dustin Johnson faded down the stretch, a streak that extended into Thursday's first round in Canada. Johnson's 3-over 75 included just two birdies, but they were more than countered by a trio of bogeys as well as a double bogey on the par-4 eighth hole. He was far from the only notable name to struggle, though, as Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel all failed to break par Thursday at Glen Abbey.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Having endured a mid-season swoon, Steele hopes to demonstrate some consistency as he looks to card back-to-back rounds in the 60s for just the second time since early February. The list of players within three shots of his lead includes several notable names, as Kuchar and Watson are both off to strong starts and Mahan has already displayed some of the form that got him into the final pairing this past Sunday at Muirfield.

Shot of the day: After his drive at the par-5 13th hole left him 225 yards from the hole, John Huh crafted an expert approach shot to set up a short eagle attempt. Despite a pin tucked on the front left near the water, Huh took an aggressive line and his second shot rolled to within nine feet. The subsequent eagle putt was holed as the highlight of the American's outward 3-under 34.