Brendan Steele fired a 9-under par 61 at Waialae Country Club today, and his career-best round put him in a similar position as last year — in the lead — heading into the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
This time, Steele hopes to stay on top and win his fourth PGA Tour event. Last year, he started Sunday with a 3-shot lead, but lost it, and then the tournament championship in a playoff to Cameron Smith.
“You hope that you come back and you play well and erase whatever negative memories there are,” Steele said. “But all the memories are pretty positive. Playing great here last year was good and I’m excited for the challenge tomorrow.”
Yesterday, Steele was the one to come from behind.
Four-time Tour winner Kevin Na also made Waialae look like a putt-putt course with a 61 of his own, shooting his career-best round for the fourth time. His last of seven birdies on No. 18, along with an eagle on No. 9, put him in the lead temporarily at 16-under.
The record for a low-round at this tournament is 59, set by Justin Thomas in 2017. That’s the same year Thomas won with a record 27-under for the tournament.
“The course is so gettable that somebody can go shoot 8- or 9-under. I am in a good position, but it’s what you shoot Sunday. I’m still going to need a low one tomorrow,” Na said.
As it turned out Na’s prediction didn’t wait for the final round. Just a few minutes later Steele put the finishing touches on his masterpiece. Three of his nine birdies came on the last three holes, after Na had finished for the day.
Steele’s assault started with four birdies on the front nine and ended with five on the back.
If someone catches Steele again, it won’t be Smith, who is tied for 39th at 9-under. But including Na, seven players are three shots or fewer behind Steele.
“I know it’s going to be really tough,” Steele said. “Guys are coming after me. But I’ll just do my best and hopefully it will be enough.”
First-round tri-leader Joaquin Niemann shot 63 yesterday to tie with Na at -16 for the tournament.
Na has three top-ten finishes here, with his closest to winning T4 in 2008. This is his first Sony Open since 2018, when he missed the cut.
Meanwhile, second-round leader Nick Taylor was grinding out all pars on the first eight holes; he got it going with three birdies on the next four holes, but ended up 2-under on the day and tied for 9th at 14-under.