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Golf Roundup

Steele on top at Texas

Rookie is able to gain separation

Brendan Steele closed his third round with back-to-back birdies to take a one-shot lead at the Texas Open. Brendan Steele closed his third round with back-to-back birdies to take a one-shot lead at the Texas Open. (Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
Associated Press / April 17, 2011

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PGA Tour rookie Brendan Steele birdied Nos. 17 and 18 for a 4-under-par 68 yesterday, grabbing sole possession of the third-round lead in the Texas Open after beginning the day tied with six other players for the top spot in San Antonio.

The 28-year-old Californian put his third shot within 15 feet on the par-5 18th, then sank the putt for his sixth birdie — offsetting a pair of bogeys.

“I decided to play it a little more conservative and laid it up, and it paid off,’’ Steele said.

That late surge was enough for a one-stroke lead over another up-and-comer, second-year PGA Tour pro Cameron Tringale, who led by two after 16 holes but hooked his tee shot on No. 18 into the deep rough, almost reaching a creek. He recovered on the approach, only to miss a 13-foot putt and settle for a 4-under 68.

“I laid up to a pretty good yardage and then just misjudged the wind, really,’’ he said.

Winds were calmer yesterday but still reached nearly 30 miles per hour at times, after strong gusts Friday saw the field struggle to a second-round scoring average of 75.289, the highest on Tour since the first round of the 2008 British Open. Strong winds are forecast again today.

“There’s going to be good shots that don’t end up good and bad shots that end up worse,’’ Steele said.

Another rookie and Californian, Kevin Chappell (70) and 30-year-old Brandt Snedeker (70) were tied for third at 5 under.

Steele said he’s never felt so much pressure on Tour as he will teeing off today with the lead.

“I definitely haven’t been in this position,’’ he said, adding that a win at the 7,435-yard TPC San Antonio “would validate a lot of things in my career as far being a guy that’s just trying to feel his way out here right now as a rookie.’’

Steele began his round tied for first at 3 under with Chappell, Snedeker, Geoff Ogilvy, Rich Beem, Kevin Sutherland, and Charley Hoffman.

The seven-way tie was the most crowded leaderboard on the PGA Tour in a decade. A seven-way tie after 36 holes hadn’t been seen on the tour since the 1977 Westchester.

European — Rory McIlroy birdied his final hole to take a two-stroke lead in the weather-hit Malaysian Open, while Masters champion Charl Schwartzel barely made the cut for the third round.

McIlroy moved to 12 under after nine holes of the third round. Only a dozen players completed their third round after rain and lightning disrupted play in Kuala Lumpur for the second straight day.

Schwartzel just made the cut with a 1-under 71 in the second round to finish at 144. The South African ended the day at 2 under through 11 holes of the third round. Top-ranked Martin Kaymer is at 9 under after 15 holes, moving up to a share of fifth.

Officials from the Asian and European Tours, which co-sanction the tournament, will decide today whether to extend the event to a Monday for the first time, if needed. In 2006, the tournament was shortened to 54 holes because of heavy rain.

Champions — John Cook shot a 6-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Lutz, Fla. Cook is 11 under, one shot ahead of Russ Cochran (68).