SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – When it comes to PGA Tour professionals, Robert Streb is about as mild-mannered as they come.
Slimly built and hailing from Chickasha, Okla., he carries himself with a quiet comportment. Heck, he doesn’t even bother with a golf glove and still relies on a 10-finger grip.
So it’s not surprising, then, that Streb described the final stroke of his record-tying 63 during the second round of the PGA Championship with an understated sense of humility.
“I was just trying to give it a chance,” Streb said. “If it went in, great. If not, it was still a good round.”
The putt in question, a 21-footer on No. 9 at Baltusrol Golf Club, did find the target, and now Streb becomes an unlikely addition to the list of 28 players who have each carded the lowest score ever in a men’s major.
“Happy to join the club that seems to be ever-growing,” he said with a grin.
Streb’s 63 is the third such score in a major in the last 16 days, dating back to Phil Mickelson’s opener at Royal Troon and including Henrik Stenson’s closer that earned him the claret jug. While both of those players showed signs that a low round could be on the horizon, Streb’s round would qualify as unexpected.
After a career season that included his first victory and a trip to the Tour Championship, Streb hasn’t finished better than T-18 in 23 starts this season. While his win at the 2014 RSM Classic gave him some job security, he entered the year’s final major at No. 112 in the FedEx Cup standings and in jeopardy of missing the postseason for the first time since 2013.
“I just struggled with my expectations a bit. Kind of thought I would keep it going, and it’s been tough,” he said. “Probably learned the hard way, you’ve got to start over again.”
Streb is making up for lost time this week in the Garden State, and at 9-under 131 he now shares the 36-hole lead with Jimmy Walker. It’s a rather surprising position for Streb, whose T-10 finish at last year’s PGA serves as both his best career finish in a major and his most recent top-10 result.
“I’m sure it will be busy, Saturday at a PGA,” Streb said. “But just try to stick to what I’m doing. Try to do the same things we’ve been doing the last couple days, and hopefully it’s good enough.”
Streb knows that with names like Jason Day and Henrik Stenson lurking just off the pace, the 36 holes lying ahead of him won’t be easy. But he felt he turned a corner last week at the RBC Canadian Open, where he played his last four holes in 4 under to make the cut and followed with a Saturday 66.
It led to a T-32 finish and perhaps served as a catalyst for Saturday’s performance, which included eight birdies against just one bogey.
It sets up a tantalizing opportunity this weekend, and Friday’s effort gave the 29-year-old a piece of major history – even if the crowd surrounding the ninth green wasn’t quite at capacity at the time.
“It was pretty noisy for the 15 people that were out there,” he said. “They obviously knew what was going on. They made a little racket when the putt went in.”