Steele sets the pace in Napa, McIlroy five back
(Reuters) - Brendan Steele charged one stroke clear after the opening round of the Frys.com Open on Thursday, though golfing heavyweights Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose were among those in hot pursuit.
American Steele took advantage of near-perfect conditions at a sun-splashed Silverado Resort in Napa, California, firing a brilliant nine-under-par 63 on the North Course to rocket to the top of the leaderboard.
Steele, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2011 Texas Open, birdied seven of his last eight holes for a red-hot homeward nine of seven-under 29 to set a sizzling pace in the season-opening event on the U.S. circuit's 2015-16 schedule.
Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas carded a 64 while American rookie Harold Varner III and Britain's Martin Laird returned 65s but Steele will certainly be keeping a wary eye on world number seven Rose (67) and third-ranked McIlroy (68).
"I was really comfortable," Steele, 32, told Golf Channel after racking up nine birdies in a bogey-free display in the opening round.
"I'm just trying to stick into my process and, as cliched as it sounds, just kind of get into every shot as much as I can and not really think about the results. The golf course is in perfect shape, just the right amount of bounce on the greens.
"They're not too soft, not too firm. They're rolling perfect. Everything was great," said Steele, who grew up in the small Californian town of Hemet where was neither a golf course nor a driving range.
RISING ROSE Continued...