Streelman captures first PGA Tour win

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2013, 12:22 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Look closely, and you’ll notice there has been no shortage of parallels in Kevin Streelman’s pro career. 

From looping at Whisper Rock for much-needed cash to winning the club championship there and paying his membership dues.

From having $400 in his bank account to capturing the $1 million Kodak Challenge.

From posting an 84 here in 2008 to owning Innisbrook over the weekend, when he shot 65-67, played bogey-free over the last 37 holes and earned a two-shot victory over Boo Weekley at the Tampa Bay Championship.

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“It’s a total dream come true,” Streelman said Sunday after winning for the first time in 153 career starts and earning a return trip to the Masters. “I always had a dream of getting here.”

While Boo Weekley joked with the media, ate pizza and hit a few balls, waiting some three hours to see if his bogey-free 63 would stand up, Streelman was playing the best golf of his life. Clinging to a share of the lead on the treacherous back nine at the Copperhead Course, Streelman stuffed his tee shot on the difficult 13th, then tacked on another birdie on 17 to finish at 10-under 274.

That alone represents a stark contrast from the rest of his season (one top-25 finish), and especially last week, when he putted miserably on his way to a missed cut in Puerto Rico. Streelman had a productive session with his instructor Darren May at the Bears Club in South Florida, but a day later became so ill with a stomach bug that he spent 24 hours in the emergency room.

That was but a distant memory by Sunday, of course. And as he kicked back in a chair in the winner’s news conference, relieved, he peeled back the layers of a compelling backstory.

Streelman, now 34 and with more than $7 million in career earnings, graduated from Duke in 2001, but initially struggled to stick on any of the mini-tours. In fact, he doesn’t know if he even made a cut on the Gateway circuit in his first attempt. “I got my butt kicked, lost all my money,” he said.

At one point he had just $400 to his name, already at a crossroads in his fledgling career. He scrubbed clubs at Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the week, working from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., then playing golf until dark. On the weekends he caddied at Whisper Rock, the high-end club in town. (Years later, Streelman won the club championship over Billy Mayfair. This is his fifth year as member.)

In summer 2003, he was a finalist for an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, but didn’t receive the job. The next day, his father loaned him $400 so he could play a Monday qualifier at the Western Open, and Streelman holed a long putt on the last hole to get into his first PGA Tour event.

In 2007, his last year on the mini-tours, Streelman led the money list on both the Hooters and Gateway tours. He had a 66.5 scoring average that summer. But when it came to the first stage of Q-School, and the opportunity to earn his card, he struggled for the first three days and appeared destined for another disappointment. Instead, he ran off four birdies in the last five holes to make the cut on the number. A few weeks later, he was a PGA Tour member, no longer needing to burn through three cars or put 400,000 miles on his mom’s Nissan Altima.

“If one of those (putts) had lipped out,” he said, “I don’t know what would have happened.”

Streelman had a respectable rookie campaign in 2008, even if the nadir came here. During the third round he self-immolated during a 13-over 84 – the worst score in tournament history by a player who made the cut. “This course can do that to you,” he said. “This course gets gusty and running and it really tests you.”

That’s precisely what happened in the third round, which was a big reason why Streelman – not Jim Furyk, not Luke Donald, not Sergio Garcia – emerged victorious. He carded a bogey-free 65 Saturday, when the course became fast and fiery, to grab a share of his first 54-hole lead in three years.

On Sunday, Streelman birdied the opening hole, chipped in on the third and then saved his best shot for the dangerous par-3 13th, which has water short and right, and a narrow green. From 194 yards he hit a “hold” 5-iron to a tucked pin that dropped near the cup and settled 5 feet away.

“That was pretty special,” said his caddie, A.J. Montecinos.

“That is where I was aiming,” Streelman confirmed afterward.

That shot helped propel Streelman to a victory in something other than the Whisper Rock club championship, or the bonus competition known as the Kodak Challenge.

“People always ask me, ‘Have you won yet?’” he said. “And it’s not going to change who I am. It’s just something to put on a resume.”

Indeed, it should fit nicely above desperate caddie, and somewhere below itinerant mini-tour grinder.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.