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October 15, 2015

Brendan Steele

Napa, California

THE MODERATOR: Brendan Steele, thanks for joining us. Spectacular start to the week and the season: 9-under 63 three; bogey-free today.

Obviously feeling good. Just a few comments on what has been working on and how it's translated into what you did today.

BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, kind of just working on more of the same stuff that I ended the year with. The year ended pretty well for me. Had a lot of good results towards the end. Felt like I was really building on some good stuff.

Then had a nice three-week break and didn't really do too much. Started practicing a little bit harder the last few days before I headed up here. When I got here Tuesday, game started to feel really good and I was getting antsy to start. Really wanted to get out there.

In the pro-am yesterday I was like, God, we need to get this tournament going. I hate it when I'm home and I feel really good. It's hard to keep it. I always say that your game is either coming or going. Right? So when it's coming, you want to be in the right place.

Everything has just kind of been focused on process lately, really getting into good pre-shot? Routine and making that the most important thing, even more so that the result.

THE MODERATOR: You got off to an incredible start, seven birdies on your first nine holes. When you make the turn after doing something like that, is it difficult to kind of stay focused on what you're doing and not be influenced by outside possibilities?

BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, definitely can be. I remember -- I had a low round to start Hartford two years ago, Travelers. I remember the 59 thought creeping into my head at one point. Sure enough, I missed a five-footer on the next hole. You know, you go downhill from there.

It's always hard to just even have a solid nine after you shoot 6, 7-under on one side. I was happy to just keep doing what I was doing. I think there are harder holes on the front, too. The first kind of four holes of the golf course are pretty tough and you can easily make bogeys there.

THE MODERATOR: With that, we'll take a few questions.

Q. I know you've told the story before, but it's always fascinating, particularly if you're playing well, how you're from Idyllwild up on the hill there above the dessert, small course, and how you got into the game and did you have to go -- I know you went to UCR, but did you have to go down the hill to play big time golf? How did you start up there?
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, so I grew up in Idyllwild, the mountains above Palm Springs. 3500 people. No golf course, not even a little golf course. My dad put a little net in the back yard, a little artificial putting green. Dug out a bunker; filled it with sand from the hardware store. That was sort of where I kind of learned how to play. It was just a situation where you get a club in your hand any way you can.

Q. Had you golfed before?
BRENDAN STEELE: No, not at all. I was playing baseball and soccer growing up, which were the two things I was good at and knew all about. I have a half brother who is 14 years older than me and he grew up in Newport Beach, California and played a lot of golf. Being a big brother, I always wanted to do whatever my big brother was doing.

That's kind of how I got into the game. I started a little later. I started when I was 13, so pretty late for PGA TOUR players. But just fell in love with it and just found a way to get some practice in wherever I could.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: Hemet high school. No high school in Idyllwild either, so had to go to Hemet for high school. But they had golf courses and they had a golf team, so I would -- originally like when I was a freshman and sophomore before I could drive I would ride the bus down in the morning. It was about a 45 minutes bus ride that would get you there like 40 minutes before last class, which as a 14 year old couldn't be more miserable.

I was getting picked up at like 5:45, you know. Then my mom would could down, pick me up, drive me to the golf course for team practice or for me to practice. She would go back up to work. My dad would come down and pick me up at the end the day and drive back up the hill.

So my parents, at the time I didn't think that much of it. I just thought that's what parents do. Looking back on it, it's a pretty big sacrifice they made.

Q. What kind of hill are we talking about here?
BRENDAN STEELE: Well, the house I grew up in is 5600 feet, so over a mile high. Hemet is down at like 1000 feet, so you got to wind up or down the hill. It's probably 25 miles to the school from my house.

Q. On this golf course, which seems kind of short-ish as you look at it, where is the difficulty?
BRENDAN STEELE: Definitely on the greens.

Q. None for you today apparently, but...
BRENDAN STEELE: Definitely on the greens. You have to be careful where you leave it. They're quick and got a lot of slope. A few have tons of slope. Nos. 3, 4, 8, these holes, like if you get on the wrong side you've got no chance.

As the week goes on it's going to firm up. If you're out of position it's going to be almost impossible to hold the greens, as it was last year. I think even though there are some shorter holes that they're really good strategically because they have areas where you can't be always.

So you know, okay, if I'm going to lay up here I need to lay up left so I can come in this way or you have the tree in your way or there is a bunker on the other side. If you're hitting good shots you can score well, and if you're not hitting good shots it'll penalized you a little bit.

Q. So from everything you just said, if you were to pick one and say why did you shoot 63 today, what would be answer?
BRENDAN STEELE: Why did I shoot 63 today? Well, I think I only missed one green. I would say that's a good start. I was playing with Steve Wheatcroft and he made a joke on like the 15th hole. I made like three 20-footers in a row. He was like, Just hang in there. It's a long season. You'll make one eventually. (Laughter.)

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: You know, I don't actually think they're even close to identical, to be honest. I had a win as a rookie, and other than that, I had only a couple good weeks really. I had a chance to win at the PGA Championship going into last round in 2011 and didn't have a good day.

Then the next year I played really poorly all year. Kind of the expectations of your second year on tour is you should be better than last year. You won last year, that kind of stuff. That was tough for me mentally. Not like what everybody put on me, but just for me to kind of relax and keep doing what I was doing.

It was more about, Well, if you're not going to win -- I didn't want to know about it. Or if you're not going to have a good week. I needed to learn I had to grind through some things.

Then in 2013 I had a pretty solid year. Got back to where I kind of wanted to be, but still not at the level I would like to be.

Then the last year, I guess there is one more year in there even. '13 was better yet. Starting to build.

So '13 and '14 started to get better, and '15 was really my best year, even better than 2011. More good finishes. Played less events. Made 20 of 24 cuts, which I was always like a 60% kind of guy before that.

Also went to Europe and played well over there.

I feel like last year was by far my best year and I feel like I am trending in the right direction and doing a lot of things that I didn't do before and kind of understanding how to play better.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: Right now, it's a lot of things. But worked with Rick Smith for about four years now, and so I've really got a good understanding of what I'm doing there. Worked with Chris Mason on my putting and process and mental game for the last couple years. That's been a big difference.

Spent a lot of time in the gym. I know you guys can tell. I'm a huge monster. But my driving distance went way up. I mean, I was like 15th on tour last year after being first couple years like 80th, 90th, something like that.

I've got a really great caddie on the bag. Christian Donald has been fantastic. He really helps me with everything. He's a good calming influence. He understands my game and how to hit shots and strategy.

I don't know what I ever did without him. That kind of thing. Just a combination of all these things kind of match up into -- maybe each one is worth a quarter of a shot a round or something, and it ends up being a big deal at the end of the year.

Q. Talk a little bit more about your putting. I could be wrong, but haven't you experimented with some different styles? Did the anchoring ban have any affect on your long-term plans on how you wanted to play?
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah. Well, I mean, it was scary. I was lucky to be able to, in 2014, kind of lock my card up by June but not be in a position where I was holing a ton of putts.

So I just decided to go to a short putter and back to the claw, which I've always used. But kind of back to the way I putted in college. So I had used the belly putter for about eight years and figured there was nothing to lose. If I putted well I would be ahead of game.

I went out and finished fifth the first two weeks with it. Then I had good mojo and at least good memories of it, because there are plenty of times where I missed putts with the belly putter. If I miss a couple here and there it's not a big deal anymore.

Those first couple weeks were really instrumental in doing that. It was scary at the time because I didn't know what was going to happen. Went to the belly putter just because I thought it was a better way to putt, but if I had known there was going to be a ban I probably wouldn't have done it. It put everybody behind.

Keegan and I have talked about this a lot. Basically everybody is thousands of hours of practice behind with the short putter. So that's where everybody has to kind of catch up. So we have to out work everybody now to pick up those little idiosyncrasies that we've missed over the last eight or ten years.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, I mean, I went to the claw originally because I thought it started the ball in line better inside of ten feet. As I went on, I used it from longer and longer range.

It's not as good for speed control, but it's good to get the ball started online from closer range. So there is not as much of a learning curve because that's what I had done; however, it's kind of a confidence thing. You don't really know what it's going to be like.

I know talking to some of the other guys, you get out there your first couple rounds with a different putter and you know everybody is paying attention. When you have a four or five-footer on your first hole you're like, Just don't miss this one, instead of, Okay, what do I need to do here?

So you start thinking, What is everybody going to say if I miss this one? That's the problem you have out there and the battle the guys are fighting a little bit.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: I mean, I think I was average last year. I think I started the year really well, and then as the year went on I didn't putt great. I had a few good weeks here and there. As the year finished up I started to putt a little bit better.

But, I mean, I'm an average putter on tour these days. If I get going pretty good I can have days like today. I'm pretty good inside of ten feet, and then I don't maybe make as many as I need to from ten to twenty feet. I don't know. That's kind of a guess.

But when I'm going well it's fine, and when I'm not, I just don't hole a lot of those birdie-range kind of putts. That being said, as a rule I'm a pretty good ball striker, so I kind of make up for it there. Give myself a few more chances.

Q. (Question regarding goals for this season.)
BRENDAN STEELE: Get in the Masters, first of all. That would be a big goal. Is that what you mean as far as priorities? Definitely Masters. It's a Ryder Cup year. I would love to be on a team.

Keegan and I always talk about trying to get on team together and how much of a meltdown we would have. We would be so excited. He says, I would probably punch you on the first tee. I wouldn't know what to do. You know how jacked up he gets.

Those are two goals for sure. And where my game is these days, I feel like I need to be into the majors and the WGCs and all those. I am trying to work my way into all of those. As a rule, I only get into one or two of those a year, so...

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: No, I never have.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, right.

Q. (No microphone.)

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: A little bit. Yeah, for sure. I mean, I definitely thought it was going to come easier than it did, but I didn't really know what I was doing, either.

So I feel like I have a lot better handle on what I'm doing, how to practice, manage my time, all the things you don't really think about when you think about who is going to be a great player out here.

You just take all that stuff for granted. Everybody knows how to practice and manage their time and how to schedule and whatever. But you don't. You have to learn that stuff, too.

Q. Did they ever give you the signature dish at the restaurant, the Creek House?
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, they did. The Creek House isn't open any longer though, so that must have put them right out of business.

Q. But it was there for a while.
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, it was. I got to have it a couple times.

Q. I know Hemet and Idyllwild are near each other. You were born in Idyllwild but grew up in Hemet?
BRENDAN STEELE: I was born at the hospital in Hemet but my parents have lived in Idyllwild since 1979.

Q. Okay. Most memorable shot or most impressive shot you hit today? Give us the one highlight.
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, let's see. I don't know. There were a lot of good shots. There was nothing spectacular I didn't think. It was just all pretty good.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENDAN STEELE: Couple of good ones maybe 20, 25 feet, but nothing from the next county. You know, as weird as it was to say, it was a basic kind of 63. It wasn't like holing shots or doing anything like when I shot 62 at the Travelers. I started with a holed out pitching wedge on the first hole from 140 yards or something, so just kind of ridiculous stuff.

Today was just really solid. Just had a lot of looks and made the putts that I should make and threw a couple more on top.

Q. Is this the longest interview you've ever had?
BRENDAN STEELE: Yeah, it's pretty long. I have a lot to say.

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