Frys.com Open 2015
Round 4 - Emiliano Grillo wins in a playoffOctober 19, 2015
Given another chance, Emiliano Grillo was determined not to let this one get away.
Seven months after he missed a 3-foot putt that cost him a victory in the Puerto Rico Open and a PGA Tour card, Grillo stood over a 3-foot putt to win the Frys.com Open in a playoff Sunday and was shocked to see it spin out of the left side of the cup.
''It was a very tough time coming back to the tee,'' Grillo said.
Moment later, he threw his arms in the air after making a 10-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Kevin Na and win in his rookie debut on the PGA Tour. What really made the 23-year-old Argentine light up was one thought. He's going to the Masters.
''It means everything,'' Grillo said. ''They've said the word 'Masters' twice today. You see this?''
He pointed to a smile that was brighter than the silver trophy sitting next to him on the table.
Grillo made a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th in regulation for a 3-under 69 to post at 15-under 273. Na got up-and-down from right of the 18th green and made birdie from 6 feet for a 70 to force a playoff.
The Argentine looked like a sure winner until missing the 3-footer, which brought back such dark memories of Puerto Rico that he said he had nightmares for a week.
The next mistake belonged to Na.
From the 18th fairway on the second extra hole, he tried to hit driver off the deck and hooked it behind a tree, which made it difficult for him to keep his third shot on the green. Na made bogey, and Grillo only had to two-putt for the victory.
Na said he has been hitting driver off the tight fairway grass all week without any trouble. He told Golf Channel right after it was over that maybe the darkening sky or the ball slightly above his feet caused him to hook it. Na, who earned $648,000, declined to come to the media room to speak to reporters.
Grillo sure had a debut to remember.
On Saturday, he didn't realize the group was still on the green at the reachable 17th hole and his tee shot narrowly hit Rory McIlroy on the fly.
''I didn't want to be the guy who almost hit Rory McIlroy this week,'' Grillo said. ''Kind of wanted to have this trophy and everybody know me because I have the trophy, and not because I almost hit him.''
Along with the trophy, he added to what is already known as the ''Class of 2011'' - a high school graduating class that includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Patrick Rodgers, Ollie Schniederjans and Daniel Berger, who was voted PGA Tour rookie of the year.
Spieth tweeted out his name and added ''first of many wins! Cool seeing the 11s always playing great.''
One of those '11s nearly joined Grillo in the playoff.
Thomas closed with a 69 and narrowly missed a 30-foot birdie on the final hole to finish one shot out of the playoff. So did Jason Bohn (70) and Tyrone Van Aswegen of South Africa, who birdied who of his last three holes for a 68.
Bohn missed a 15-foot birdie on the last hole, but it was a mistake earlier that really cost him.
He was leading at 15 under and was just inside 50 yards from the hole on the par-5 16th hole when he chunked a wedge. His next wedge slid 8 feet by the hole and he missed the par putt to drop a shot on the second-easiest hole at Silverado on Sunday.
''I was fairly focused on 16 where I just kind of laid the sod over it and chunked it,'' Bohn said. ''There's times when you think that - trust me - when you're out there, 'Oh, don't chunk this one.' But this wasn't one of those times. Kind of rattled me a little bit. To make a bogey from 40 yards short of the green is pretty unacceptable when you're trying to win a golf tournament.''
But then, just about everyone could look back at lost chances.
Nine players had at least a share of the lead at some point during a final round at Silverado that was up for grabs until the very end. It started with Brendan Steele, who was trying to go wire-to-wire and was still in position until he hit a poor fairway bunker shot on No. 12. Steele made five bogeys over the next six holes and closed with a 76.
Justin Rose was tied for the lead at the turn and was poised to rely on his experience until he missed a 3-foot par putt at No. 12 and dropped two more shots coming for a 72. He wound up three shots out of the playoff.
Van Aswegen birdied two of the last three holes to at least have a chance at a playoff until Grillo and then Na each made birdie. The South African woke up to the room spinning, was taken in an ambulance to the emergency room and treated for dehydration, and narrowly got back to the golf course in time to warm up. He was helped by morning fog that led to a 20-minute delay.
For Grillo, it was his second win in three weeks. He won the Web.com Tour Championship with a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole.
''I can get used to this,'' he said. ''Holding two trophies in three weeks, it's great.''
Round 3 - Brendan Steele holds on to slim leadOctober 18, 2015
Brendan Steele had no complaints about his game Saturday in the Frys.com Open. He struck the ball well, made four birdies for a 3-under 69 and walked off Silverado with a one-shot lead going into the final round.
It was only after he finished that he saw that just about everyone else did so much more.
Andrew Loupe had a 63, starting with five straight birdies and making four in a row late in his round. Kevin Na and Jason Bohn each had a 64.
Three others shot 65, including Argentine rookie Emiliano Grillo, who played the final three holes in 3 under.
''The way it firmed up at the end yesterday, and how firm it was today, you really had to be on your game in order to do that,'' Steele said. ''I guess you never underestimate the talent level out here. I didn't really ever flip the mindset. Just trying to do the best that I could.''
It was good enough to keep the lead - barely.
Sixteen players were within four shots of the lead, meaning the PGA Tour season opener was wide open.
Loupe went from a tie for 29th to playing in the final group with his 63, which matches the course record at Silverado first set by host Johnny Miller in 1976 and matched on Thursday by Steele. Na played the final three holes in 3 under to join Loupe just one shot out of the lead.
Steele stayed in the lead the entire back nine, though he wasted a chance to at least build a cushion going into the final round. The last three holes were set up for scoring with the par-5 16th, a forward tee to make the 17th play only 296 yards, and the par-5 18th.
Steele had to settle for pars.
He couldn't get up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 16th. His tee shot was slightly pulled and bounced out of a tree back to the fairway and short of the green on the 296-yard 17th hole, and he could get no closer than 20 feet with a wedge on the par-5 18th.
''It happens,'' he said. ''Whether it's at the end or the start, you just have to deal with it.''
A pair of PGA Tour rookies were among the eight players two shots behind at 12-under 204. Grillo, coming off a win in the Web.com Tour Championship two weeks ago, went eagle-birdie-par.
''The course asks you to be aggressive a little bit, but you have to be very smart out there,'' Grillo said. ''If you play smart you can score well.''
Harold Varner III played that stretch in 1 over, having to scramble for a par on the 17th and missing the 18th green long with a wedge to make bogey. He shot 69.
Grillo drove near the 17th green and nearly took out Rory McIlroy, who was still playing the hole. Grillo was under the impression the group had left.
And if he had hit the four-time major champion?
''Would have put me out of my misery,'' McIlroy said.
McIlroy opened with two quick birdies, though frustration set in quickly and he whacked the flagstick with the end of his putter after missing a par putt on No. 4. He finished with a 71 and was eight shots behind in a tie for 39th.
Justin Rose, who along with McIlroy is at the Frys.com Open because of an eight-man exhibition he played in Turkey three years ago, used that closing stretch to make a pair of birdies for a 68 and get within two shots.
Others at 12-under 204 were Jason Bohn (64), Kyle Reifers (65), Graham DeLaet (69), Will Wilcox (69) and Jhonattan Vegas (69).
Justin Thomas had a 69 and was three shot behind.
The 54-hole cut knocked out nine players, so the final round will be played in twosomes from one tee. Loupe will play in the last group with Steele, and perhaps they can share tales from the Valero Texas Open. That's where Steele won his only PGA Tour event in 2011 as a rookie. And that's where Loupe had a chance to win in 2014 as a rookie until he faded at the end. Loupe wound up back on the Web.com Tour, and won a Web.com Tour Finals event just last month.
''I just think overall I feel I'm more ready,'' Loupe said. ''I needed to get a win those Finals. That was huge, just to close out a golf tournament and all that.''
Round 2 - Brendan Steele stretches lead to two shotsOctober 17, 2015
Brendan Steele felt no different about his game Friday than when he tied the course record with a 63 in his opening round at the Frys.com Open. The difference was seven shots. What didn't change was his position on the leaderboard.
Steele had to settle for pars on the closing three holes at Silverado that tend to produce birdies, giving him a 2-under 70 on a course that was getting firmer and featured much stronger pin positions.
All that mattered was a two-shot lead going into the weekend.
''I expected today to be tough,'' said Steele, who was at 11-under 133. ''And it's always tough to follow up a round like yesterday with anything even under par. I think we've seen guys over the years follow 63 up usually with something around par. If you can go lower than that, you probably have a pretty good-sized lead.''
He'll take the two-shot margin over Will Wilcox (67), Jhonattan Vegas (71), Graham DeLaet (68) and Harold Varner III, who missed a 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would have put him in the final group on the weekend in his rookie debut on the PGA Tour. Varner had a 70.
One thing didn't change for Rory McIlroy. He can't seem to make a putt.
McIlroy, the No. 3 player in the world, shot 71 and was six shots behind. Considering how many putts he missed, it felt like an even greater margin.
''Not to be able to break 70 today is quite disappointing,'' McIlroy said.
His only two birdies were on par 5s where he missed putts for eagles. And he ended his round by missing a birdie putt from just outside 12 feet, a familiar sight for him over two days at Silverado.
''I think it's more mental than anything else,'' McIlroy said. ''Whenever you don't see anything go in, it makes it harder and harder each and every hole that goes by. ... I don't expect to hole everything, but I expect to hole more than I am at the moment.''
And with that, he signed a few autographs and headed straight for the practice green.
With tougher pins, Silverado played about one shot more difficult. It was just as tough to get some separation.
The cut was set at 2-under 142, and a 54-hole cut was in play for Saturday because 81 players advanced to the weekend. That group includes Brandt Snedeker, who birdied his last two holes to make it on the number.
Missing putts was a familiar sight for everyone.
''I actually felt like from tee-to-green, I played way better than yesterday, to be honest,'' said Vegas, who followed his 64 with a 71. ''I just couldn't buy any putts.''
This is a big week for Vegas, who received a sponsor's exemption after losing his card and needs to make the most of what limited tournaments he can play this year.
And it's a big start for Varner, who joins Tiger Woods as the only players of black heritage on the PGA Tour this year. Varner made back-to-back birdies and was closing in on the lead when he had to settle for four straight pars at the end. It was nearly dark when Varner played his last hole, though he never considered coming back to finish Saturday morning.
''Six hours of sleep is way more important than one putt, I think,'' Varner said. ''I'm staying in American Canyon. It says it's 25 minutes, but it's yet to take me 25 minutes to get back. I'm going to get it tomorrow. I'm pretty excited.''
Steele opened his round with a birdie, which he thought might be a sign of another low score. He made two birdies in three holes to start his back nine and was thinking he might get a chance to pull away at 12 under, especially with a pair of par 5s and a short par 4 among the three closing holes.
Plus, he ended that side with five straight birdies Thursday. It just didn't quite work out that way.
Steele missed the green on the par-5 16th with a wedge in his hand. His tee shot on the short 17th settled in a divot. And then on the par-5 18th hole, he drove left into the rough, laid up in the group and missed the green again.
''So those last three you think you can score on were kind of a struggle,'' he said.
But he wasn't alone. Justin Thomas, coming off a strong rookie season and a 66 to start the new season, caught Steele with a 20-foot birdie putt at the turn and had his hopes ruined by missing the green at No. 4 with a wedge, and then taking double bogey on No. 6. A birdie on the last hole for a 70 put him in the group at 8-under 136 that included Justin Rose (69), Russell Henley (69 and Martin Laird (71).
Round 1 - Brendan Steele sets opening round paceOctober 16, 2015
Brendan Steele had an ideal start to the new PGA Tour season at the Frys.com Open with a round that featured nine birdies, no stress and a simple explanation.
''As weird as it is to say, it was kind of a basic 63,'' he said.
It gave him a one-shot lead over Jhonattan Vegas in ideal scoring conditions at Silverado, which has such subtle movement in the greens that the course doesn't always yield low scores even when players have a short iron into the putting surface.
Twenty-eight players shot 68 or better, and one-third of the field was in the 60s.
That included Rory McIlroy, who is between two seasons. The world's No. 3 player had numerous birdie chances and didn't convert nearly as many as he would have liked. What pleased McIlroy was the quality of his game from tee-to-green, far crisper than it was at the Tour Championship three weeks ago.
''Definitely a step in the right direction today,'' McIlroy said after a 68.
Vegas, who won as a rookie in 2011 at the Humana Challenge, lost his card this year and failed to get it back at the Web.com Tour Finals two weeks ago. He is relying on his limited status as a past champion and sponsor exemptions, so it was important to make the most out of his exemption this week.
Harold Varner III, who joins Tiger Woods as the only players of black heritage on the PGA Tour this year, made a strong rookie debut with a 65. Martin Laird had the best score of the afternoon to join Varner at 65. The group at 66 included Justin Thomas, with Justin Rose among those at 67.
Three players did not finish because of darkness.
Steele posted a target early with a 29 on the back nine, including five straight birdies before making the turn. At one point, he rolled in putts of 25 feet, 20 feet and 18. That prompted this observation from Steve Wheatcroft.
''Just hang in there,'' he said Wheatcroft told him. ''It's a long season. You'll make one eventually.''
Sang-moon Bae, unable to defend because of his mandatory military service in South Korea, won last year at Silverado at 15-under par. No one had better than 65 the entire tournament last year, which made Steele's round stand out even more.
Steele wasn't surprised.
This is the third straight year of a wraparound season that starts in October with a two-week break after the old season ended. Steele had some good results toward the end of last season, took a short break, started practicing and liked how his game felt.
''In the pro-am yesterday I was like, 'We need to get this tournament going.' I hate it when I'm home and I feel really good,'' he said. ''It's hard to keep it. I always say that your game is either coming or going, right? So when it's coming, you want to be in the right place.''
McIlroy is coming and going as it relates to seasons.
While this is the season opener on the PGA Tour, he leaves after this week for three tournaments in Asia to finish off his European Tour schedule with hopes of winning another Race to Dubai title. This is only his fifth tournament dating to the PGA Championship, when he returned from a two-month hiatus to heal his injured ankle.
His game looked good, but he struggled to match the speed with the line for a number of birdie chances from about 12 feet or in.
''Gave myself a lot of chances,'' McIlroy said. ''I converted a few, but I'll need to hole a few more. I feel like this is a golf course that you can give yourself a lot of chances. If I can keep hitting the ball the way I am and just hole a few more, I'll be OK.''
Varner made a flashy finish to get near the top of the leaderboard. He holed an 18-foot eagle putt on No. 16, stuffed a sand wedge into 2 feet for birdie on the 17th and had to settle for a birdie on the par-5 18th when he narrowly missed another eagle chance.
Varner earned his card through the Web.com Tour, and he already noticed one big difference. While a tournament in wine country doesn't attract a massive crowd, it was still far more than he was used to seeing.
''It's fun until you hit one too far left or right,'' Varner said. ''I get a little nervous because there are people over there. Usually there is no one over there and I just go find it. But there are so many people, you might hit them. So it's good. Different experience. I guess you've just got to get used to it.''