Brendan Steele started the new PGA Tour season the same way he did last year.
Steele birdied two of the last three holes to shoot 3-under-par 69 and successfully defended his title in the Safeway Open by one stroke over Tony Finau on the North Course in windy conditions at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif.
“It’s so nice to come out here and start the season with a win again,” said Steele, from Idyllwild and UC Riverside. “Got off to a good start by winning here last year and it propelled me to my best season. Nice to get restarted like this.
“It was a brutal wind out there today after we had very little wind the first three days. And the wind turned around, which meant all the holes played completely different, and it was nice to be able to adjust to that.”
Steele, whose only other PGA Tour victory came in the 2011 Valero Texas Open, finished with a total of 15-under 273.
Finau, seeking his second victory on the circuit after winning the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, also closed with a 69 that included a costly double-bogey 6 on the 14th hole, where he drove into the rough and needed four shots to reach the green.
Phil Mickelson, seeking his 43rd PGA Tour victory and first since claiming his fifth major title in the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, totaled 70 to finish three strokes behind in a tie for third with Chesson Hadley, who wound up with a 73.
Rookie Tyler Duncan, who held the 54-hole lead in his first event as a PGA Tour member, struggled to a 75 and was another shot down in a tie for fifth with Graham DeLaet of Canada, who had a 72, while Andrew Landry carded a 69 to wind up five back in a tie for seventh with Bud Cauley, who came in at 74.
Brandon Harkins birdied four of his last six holes to post a 68 and was six behind in a tie for ninth with Tyrone Van Aswegen of South Africa and Grayson Murray, who both had 69s, and Nick Taylor, who finished at 72.
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