Monday Backspin: Streelman's perseverance pays off with first win

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March 18, 2013
Brian Wacker,

There was a lot for Kevin Streelman to be proud of in his first career victory Sunday at the Tampa Bay Championship presented by Everbank, not the least of which was his perseverance through a career that’s seen its ups and downs.

But what was perhaps most impressive was how Streelman handled one of the toughest courses and specifically one of the toughest stretches of holes on the PGA TOUR.

With the exception of the last two years, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook has ranked among the toughest 15 courses on the schedule every season since 2005. This year, it sits second and should again finish in the top 15 or so.

Part of what makes Copperhead so difficult is its final three holes, not-so-affectionately known as the Snake Pit. The 16th, 17th and 18th played as the first, fourth and third-hardest holes on the course this past week.

How did Streelman play them?

In a combined 1 over with three bogeys -- two of which came in the second round and the other in the first -- and two birdies with one of each of them coming on the weekend.  

A lot of other venues have difficult closing holes: PGA National’s Bear Trap, TPC Sawgrass’ 16th, 17th and 18th, Quail Hollow’s Green Mile, etc.
But the par-4, par-3 and par-4 trio at the end of Innisbrook stack up to any of them (the 16th saw 25 double bogeys alone last week).

“When I made the putt on 17, that freed my mind up a little bit,” Streelman said of the penultimate hole.

It also gave him a two-stroke lead -- not that it mattered with how he played the 18th.

“Grip that driver down the middle,” Streelman’s caddie told him of his final tee shot.

Said Streelman: “To flush that, knock the wedge on, the uphill putt and tap-in for par, was pretty magical.”

So was how he played one of the toughest stretches of golf.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Woke up Sunday and had to go to the emergency room. I was very ill. I don't know if it was the flu or a 24-hour bug or if I ate something, but I was out of commission for 24 hours. I was in the ER Sunday, and didn't really feel good until Thursday. And so I think that probably took a little stress off me as far as having maybe lower expectations. -- Kevin Streelman describing the beginning of his week before he won in Tampa Bay.

“Beautiful chip.” -- John Daly after his 10 on the par-4 third at Innisbrook, where his chip from 30 yards settled a foot from the hole.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@RickieFowlerPGA: Champs! -- Fowler after winning his second straight title at the Medalist Member-Guest. Here’s the celebratory picture that went with it. (http://instagr.am/p/W8AQh8Qu0i/)

@cicioCastro: Played some good golf, didn't fall in a sinkhole, and the Jackets finish with 5 guys in the top-30 led by @CamTringalePGA #respect -- Robert Castro, noting the bevy of former Yellow Jackets who played well in Tampa Bay

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Kevin Streelman was never out of it in Tampa Bay. Not after an opening-round 73 -- the highest start by a winner in three years -- and not after a few hundred thousand miles and 152 career starts on the PGA TOUR. If there’s one thing you learn crisscrossing the country in three different cars playing various mini tours, it’s patience. Otherwise, it’s time for a new job. One of the experiences that helped Streelman the most? The 2003 Western Open, where he Monday qualified before bumping into the Masters champion that year, Mike Weir, in the locker room. “It’s my first ever TOUR event and I’m so nervous and excited and go, ‘Mr. Weir, mind if I play a practice round with you today,’” Streelman recalled.

“He was awesome. He invited me, said ‘Love to have ya,’ showed us how to use yardage books and things we needed to know. I shot 78-77, missed the cut. That practice round with Mike, especially coming right after his Masters win, just said, you know, he's much better than I am but I think I can hang. And it kind of really gave me that kind of kick in the butt to say, if you're going to do this, you need to get serious about it.”

2. History is sometimes everything. Or nothing. Take Boo Weekley, who had broken par just three times on the Copperhead Course in his career and his best finish there was a tie for 22nd. Then he shot 63 Sunday, which was one shy of the tournament’s lowest final round and one shy of his career low score. “Even I'm still kind of shocked at how good I really hit it,” said Weekley, whose runner-up was his best finish in five years.

“Overall one of the best days I've had in ball-striking in a long time. It was impressive. “

3. Speaking of history meaning nothing, Streelman shot an 84 in the third round of the 2008 event in Tampa Bay, missed the secondary cut and went on to miss five of his next six cuts before bouncing back late in the season to cap a good year with over $1.3 million in earnings.

“This course can do that to you,” Streelman said, reflecting back on that day five years ago. “I feel like a more mature golfer and a more mature person than
I was then, and where I want to be in my life and my faith and was able to just overcome it.”

4. Get used to seeing more of Jordan Spieth. Thanks to his tie for seventh, the 19-year-old earned temporary membership for the remainder of the 2013 season, which means he’s eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions. In four starts this season, the University of Texas product has earned $521,893.

5. Stat of the Week I: Zero. That’s how many of the 77 players who made the cut in Tampa Bay broke par in all four rounds.

6. Stat of the Week II: Streelman became the fifth first-time winner in 13 events on TOUR this season. He was also the fifth in his 30s to win this year.

7. Stat of the Week III: 10, or John Daly’s score on the par-4 third hole at Innisbrook during the second round. It was the 15th time in Daly’s career on TOUR that he’s hit double digits on a single hole. He’s also made at least a 10 in every major except the Masters. And at Bay Hill in 1998 he made an 18 during the final round when he hit 3-wood into the water six times on the par-5 sixth before bouncing back with a birdie the next hole.

8. Stat of the Week IV: Make it 12-for-12 for Americans on TOUR this year. The last time U.S. players won this many in a row to open a season was 1989 when Americans won the first 13 events. There’s a good chance that streak could end this week, however. The last four winners at Bay Hill not named Tiger Woods were all from elsewhere in the world.

9. Rickie Fowler won the Medalist Member-Guest over the weekend, teaming with his agent and former fellow Oklahoma State product Sam McNaughton.

It’s the second straight year Fowler won both the Seminole Pro-Member and Medalist’s Member-Guest. Sure, they’re just club championships. But there’s an all-star roster of competition in both, and last year it was the beginning of some very good play from Fowler, who at one point went on to four straight top 10s, including a win at Quail Hollow and a runner-up at TPC Sawgrass.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
mail

Tiger wins two majors this year, no? -- John Thompson

No. Golf is so deep these days, it’s impossible to predict who’s going to win what majors never mind how many. Did anyone really think Ernie Els was going to win the British Open last year? Or Keegan Bradley the PGA Championship the year before? I’m sticking with my prediction going into the year that Tiger will win the Masters. Other than that I just don’t see him having the same success at Merion (U.S. Open), Muirfield (British Open) or Oak Hill (PGA Championship). But again, who knows?

Can players watch television coverage before they tee off? If so can’t they “scout” putts by doing so? -- Tim Cannata

Sure, Tim, and many do. Most players and their caddies, however, have the holes pretty well scouted in terms of how a putt might break or how fast it might be. Plus, players are creatures of habit in terms of their warm-up routines and there’s only so much you can gain from watching on television.

Will his success in his three starts take Steve Stricker out of semi-retirement? Will he at least play the British Open? -- Gary Brilowski

Quite the opposite, Gary. Stricker feels like he’s rested and fresh every time he tees it up on his new limited schedule -- which by the way will include the major championships as I understand it.

Have a question for the mailbag? Email your question to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com, or tweet it to @pgatour_brianw.

 

Forward Spin: Who I like this week
r009_spotlight

 

Of Tiger Woods’ 76 career victories on the PGA TOUR, 40 of them have come on seven courses. Of those 40, seven have come at Bay Hill. The last of them came last year, which started the run that Woods is currently on: Five wins in his last 18 stroke-play events on TOUR. Is there any reason to think he won’t make it six in his last 19 at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard? Not if he hits it and rolls it the way he did the last time he put a peg in the ground. There’s no understating his dominance at Arnie’s place: Woods is a collective 108 under in 15 starts there as a pro, and his average margin of victory is 3.86 strokes. I still don’t think Woods will ever return to the insane winning percentage he had during his most dominant years on TOUR, but this is one week I can’t see him not winning.

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