June 20, 2024
Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson, left, and Brendan Steele on Sunday after Steele's victory.

Brendan Steele, at the age of 41 and after 19 years as a pro, knows who he is.
He freely admits it, too.

“I’m pretty nervous all the time,” he said. “I think that’s just my DNA.”
Has it been a hindrance? To the casual eye, not so much. Nerves, they’ll tell you, are one of the surest signs you care, and Steele’s carved out a good career for himself. Three PGA Tour wins. A spot for the past year with LIV Golf, where he plays for the HyFlyers team headed by Phil Mickelson — and it was Mickelson, Steele said, from whom he’s sought counsel.
Sunday, Steele talked of offseason work with the six-time major winner in his backyard. He talked wedge work. Short-game work. Course-management work.

Some mental-game work. Let’s start there.

Last week, during LIV’s event in Australia, Steele opened with a six-under 66, followed it up with a nine-birdie 64, and he led by one going into the final round. A win would be his first on either the PGA Tour or LIV since October of 2016, at the then-named Safeway Open. A win would pay him $4 mill. Eyes would be on him. The pressure ratcheted up.

Those nerves, too.

So before the round, Steele said Mickelson talked with him. The conversation started with questions. How was he feeling? What was he thinking? Steele thought if he could play “freely” like he had been, he’d have a shot.

Here, Mickelson had a thought.

“He’s like, that’s great. Let’s reframe it,” Steele said. “Let’s make it: ‘When I play freely, I can play freely, I will play freely.’ Let’s reframe it into that. I was saying: ‘And then I think it’ll be good enough.’ He’s like, ‘No, it will be good enough, you will play freely. This is what you need to do.’ So that was what I was trying to do.”

Did it work? Steele admits he was still nervous. He bogeyed the 3rd. But then he birdied holes 5 through 9, followed up a bogey on 11 with a birdie on 13, and on 18, after an anxious wedge to the green, Steele two-putted for a one-stroke win.
Anxious wedge? From Steele?

He was surprised too.

“Yeah, that was pretty wild,” Steele said. “I was terrified over that wedge shot, to be honest, because it’s like — it’s a really tough shot. I need to get it over the tier but not go into the back bunker. I’ve got 10,000 fans in the fairway kind of right on top of me.

“Fortunately all the work that I’ve put in over the offseason with Phil in his backyard and all the help that he’s given me, it really paid off with that shot specifically.”

Afterward, Steele noted Mickelson five times in his winner’s press conference. He said he’s leaned on him. “If he’s going to give me advice, I’m going to take it,” he said. He said he was the reason for his win.

Steele also shared what Mickelson told him after the round, after a reporter noticed they had hugged.

“Yeah, he was just telling me how proud he is of me and how he knew this was coming and he thinks it’s going to set off a lot of really good things for me,” Steele said.

“Just for him to have that belief in me is really great. He’s the reason that I’m here and the reason that I’m improving. To be honest, I’m 41 years old and I’m getting better, and it’s mostly because of him. It’s really great.”

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