Brendan Steele opened with a 4-under-par 66 and was one stroke behind surprise leader Jim Herman after the first round of the Honda Classic in windy conditions on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Steele who grew up in Idywilld in the Inland Empire and played at UC Riverside, carded six birdies in his round, with his only bogeys coming on the fifth and 14th holes.
“Any time the wind is blowing like this, anything under par is really good, so to get it to 4(-under) is very satisfying,” said Steele, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2011 Valero Texas Open. “You kind of have to work it one shot at a time and see what happens. You can’t get ahead of yourself because there are so many tough shots out here, especially with the wind.
“Even the “Bear Trap” (the 15th through 17th holes) was tough even though they were playing downwind because it was hard to hold the ball on the greens and have the right flight on the ball.
” … I’m a West Coast guy just trying to find my way in Florida, but I’m getting better at it every year, and I’m starting to feel better here.”
The 38-year-old Herman, whose biggest professional victory came in the 2010 Moonah Classic on the Web.com Tour, shot a bogey-free 65, making birdies on two of the last three holes to grab the lead.
Patrick Reed, who has won four times on the PGA Tour in the last 18 months, carded seven birdies and overcame four bogeys on the back nine to finish at 67 and was tied for third with Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who birdied two of the last three holes, and Martin Flores, who had five birdies in his last 10 holes.
Martin Kaymer of Germany, playing for the first time on the PGA Tour in 2015, bounced back from two early bogeys to tie for sixth at 68, while Phil Mickelson returned from a two-week break to shoot 71 and tie for 35th,
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy struggled to a 73 and was tied for 79th in his first outing of the year in the U.S.