Steele cans late birdies to move three clear of the pack in Hawaii

Graeme McDowell cards three-under 67 after late bogeys leave sour taste

 Brendan Steele  plays a shot on the 13th hole during the third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Brendan Steele plays a shot on the 13th hole during the third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

 

American Brendan Steele overcame a poor start, remained patient and then birdied the final three holes to break out of a logjam and into a three-shot lead after the third round at the Sony Open in Hawaii on Saturday.

On an afternoon when the winds abated somewhat after nearly three days of extremely testing conditions, Steele posted a six-under-par 64, matching the day’s best score at Waialae Country Club.

He finished in a sudden downpour and posted a 12-under 198 total. Australian Cameron Smith also birdied the final three holes to stay within striking distance with a 66 that left him alone in second place.

American Kevin Kisner, who three years ago shot 60 in the third round at Waialae, had to settle for a 64 this time, a score that left him four shots from the lead.

Graeme McDowell carded a three-under 67 to move to three under but looked on course to go much lower after he reached five under for his round after 12 holes. After starting on the 10th hole he made a bogey on the 15th but got it back with a birdie on the 16th.

Graeme McDowell plays a shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
Graeme McDowell plays a shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

The former US Open champion drained a brilliant eagle putt on the par-five 18th from nearly 50 feet and followed it up with three straight birdies from the first to get to five under, only for bogeys on the sixth and the eighth to drop him back to three under, nine shots off the lead.

Steele was in danger of falling out of contention after two early bogeys but settled down and hardly hit a bad shot the rest of the way.

“Two over through four [holes] is not the way you’re looking to get going but I felt really comfortable with what I was doing and I stuck with it and it paid off,” said Steele.

A three-times winner on the PGA Tour, the 36-year-old is coming off a disappointing season where he failed to capitalise on his trademark stellar driving.

“All facets of my game are as good as they’ve ever been, coming off my worst season on tour,” he said.

“I’m really excited about my trajectory and where things are going [but] I’ve been out here long enough to know that it’s always difficult [to win].”

Third-placed Kisner enjoyed the slightly easier conditions that, he said, made putting a little less of a lottery.

“I started to see the ball actually rolling as it looks like it’s supposed to do instead of praying the wind doesn’t hit it, so it was a more enjoyable back nine,” said Kisner.

LEADERBOARD
(USA unless stated, par 70):

198 Brendan Steele 68 66 64

201 Cameron Smith (Aus) 70 65 66

202 Kevin Kisner 69 69 64

203 Ryan Palmer 67 68 68, Collin Morikawa 65 70 68, Webb Simpson 71 66 66

204 Keegan Bradley 69 66 69, Sungjae Im (Kor) 69 68 67, Bol Hoag 70 65 69, Mark Anderson 72 68 64

205 Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 68 67 70, Henrik Norlander (Swe) 71 66 68, Cameron Davis (Aus) 68 66 71, Russell Knox (Sco) 70 65 70, Charles Howell III 72 67 66

206 Ben Martin 73 68 65, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 70 69 67, Peter Malnati 72 66 68, Ted Potter, Jr. 67 69 70, Patrick Rodgers 68 69 69, Nick Taylor (Can) 70 69 67, Tom Hoge 71 68 67

207 Pat Perez 68 73 66, Rob Oppenheim 70 65 72, Vaughn Taylor 75 66 66, Graeme McDowell (N Irl) 71 69 67, Zach Johnson 69 68 70, Brendon Todd 68 70 69, Tim Wilkinson (Nzl) 68 69 70

208 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 74 67 67, Sam Ryder 67 68 73, Matt Jones (Aus) 67 71 70, Nate Lashley 70 69 69, Lanto Griffin 71 69 68, Joel Dahmen 74 66 68, Michael Thompson 70 69 69, Jimmy Walker 70 71 67, Brandt Snedeker 72 67 69, Corey Conners (Can) 68 71 69, D.J. Trahan 69 68 71

209 Daniel Berger 70 70 69, Andrew Putnam 69 67 73, Abraham Ancer (Mex) 69 71 69, Matthew NeSmith 71 69 69, Alex Noren (Swe) 69 69 71, Marc Leishman (Aus) 68 70 71, Michael Gellerman 69 67 73

210 Brian Harman 68 68 74, Scott Piercy 70 69 71

211 Jerry Kelly 70 70 71, Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 69 70 72, Kramer Hickok 72 68 71, Hudson Swafford 69 67 75, Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn) 73 67 71, Chase Seiffert 71 69 71, Talor Gooch 70 71 70, Scott Harrington 69 71 71

212 Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 72 69 71, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 71 70 71, Rhein Gibson (Aus) 70 69 73, Joseph Bramlett 73 67 72

213 Brian Stuard 73 68 72, Harry Higgs 73 68 72, Zac Blair 72 67 74

215 Sepp Straka (Aut) 70 69 76

216 Mikumu Horikawa (Jpn) 73 67 76

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