Streelman's back-nine 28, victory 'a dream come true'

By Jason SobelJune 23, 2014, 12:46 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Kevin Streelman glided up the steep hill just left of the 18th green at TPC River Highlands, his spikes barely touching the trampled-down grass as the nearby gallery howled with appreciation. He kissed his wife Courtney, grabbed his six-month-old daughter Sophia, walked through the edge of the practice green and bounced up the 15 steps leading to the scoring trailer, a mixture of elation and bemusement splashed across his face.

When he was offered congratulations by one observer, all he could do was shake his head and answer, “I don’t even know what just happened.”

Here’s what happened: Streelman enjoyed one of the most ridiculous Sunday afternoon performances we’ll ever see.

He posted a second consecutive 6-under 64 on the weekend.

He one-putted the final 10 greens.

He birdied the last seven holes of the round.

He came back from seven strokes down with 10 holes to play.

And 32 minutes after gliding up that hill and kissing his wife and grabbing his daughter and bouncing up those steps and wondering what just happened, he was the last man standing as the Travelers Championship winner.

“I am a little shocked, but to do it in that fashion is something that I'll never forget,” Streelman said. “Birdie the last seven? To even say it is crazy.”

But none of it – not the one-putts nor the birdies nor the comeback – was the most impressive part of the victory.

No, the most impressive part was that Streelman pulled off his own version of Babe Ruth’s called shot or Joe Namath’s guarantee. Walking off the ninth green, he turned to caddie A.J. Montecinos and offered a confident proclamation.

“He goes, ‘We’re going to shoot 29 on the back,’” Montecinos later recounted.

He was wrong. He shot 28 instead.

Travelers Championship: Articles, videos and photos

There are improbable wins and unlikely wins, but this one was an unfathomable win. After playing the first seven holes in 2 over and rendering himself an afterthought, well behind proven champions Sergio Garcia, K.J. Choi and Aaron Baddeley atop the leaderboard, Streelman entered what he – and so many athletes before him – referred to as "the zone."

“When athletes talk about being in the zone, everything is really slow, and it's really clear and concise, and it's very vivid,” he explained. “The lines are easy to see. The hole seems to appear bigger. It's something we just wish we could be in every week, but to be honest, it kind of clicked on that ninth green when I started just seeing the lines very clear.

“It's almost to a point it doesn't matter how you read the putts, because you just know they're going in before you hit them.”

Just how in the zone was Streelman over those final 10 holes? Let’s count the ways.

He holed a 10-footer on the ninth for his first birdie of the day. Then he saved par from five feet on the 10th and again from nine feet on the 11th.

The rest of the day’s results looked like video game stats on the easiest level. A birdie from seven feet on 12, from four feet on 13, from 20 feet on 14, from 12 feet on 15, from 37 feet – yes, 37 feet! - on 16, from three feet on 17 and from eight feet on 18.

“It can kind of come and go at times, but it's a combination of calmness, confidence, resting, trust,” he said of being in the zone. “Inner training can come out naturally. Sometimes we try and force our training to come out, force a score or force a birdie and it doesn't happen, but when we just relax and just let it happen, I think that's when kind of greatness can come out.”

Greatness hasn’t always come out of Streelman. This is a player who was a self-proclaimed “journeyman” coming out of Duke University. He toiled the dark reaches of mini-tour life for years, often going days without eating anything but Taco Bell. He was a caddie at Whisper Rock, really not that long ago.

And so it should come as symbolic that the player who vividly remembers those days, who is now a member at the club where he caddied, who offers clubs and balls to struggling young pros who remind him of himself, won in unfathomable fashion.

Nothing has ever come easy for Streelman. He’s always had to work a little harder than the competition. He's been forced to dig deep when things were going against him.

“It took me six years of that to get out the first year out here,” he said. “And to now be a multiple-time winner out here is just amazing. It's really been a dream come true.”

More than an hour after climbing those steps and wondering what just happened, Streelman sat next to the gleaming silver trophy, his hands still trembling and his voice still quivering. He finally realized exactly what had happened. He just wasn’t sure he could really believe it.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm