Putting tip propels Kevin Streelman into contention
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Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
Sam Burns makes birdie on No. 9 in Round 2 at Workday
DUBLIN, Ohio – Kevin Streelman didn’t exactly come out of the blocks quickly when the PGA TOUR resumed play after a four-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He missed the cut in the Charles Schwab Challenge, as well as the RBC Heritage. But the early exit in Hilton Head proved to be fortuitous when Streelman and Aaron Baddeley got together for a friendly 18 holes on Saturday while everyone else was battling at Harbour Town.
“He just saw one little thing in my putting and kind of gave me a little tip, and I've been putting beautifully since,” the Duke graduate said.
The boost of confidence on the greens was among the keys to Streelman’s second-place finish at the Travelers Championship, his second runner-up of the season. And it’s carried over to the Workday Charity Open where he entered Saturday’s third round tied for second, three strokes off the lead held by 23-year-old Collin Morikawa.
Streelman made nine birdies in a round of 64 on Friday and stood first in Strokes Gained: Putting through two rounds with a career-best +8.475. The 41-year-old finished four rounds at TPC River Highlands ranked a solid 10th in the same category, as well.
Streelman, whose golf bag was signed by his beloved Chicago Cubs starters before the pandemic hit, is now 37 under in his last seven rounds on the PGA TOUR.
“I putted beautifully, kept it below most of the pins, was able to give some nice strikes to some putts, but took care of the difficult shots out there and birdied the par 5s and put myself in position,” Streelman said, terming himself “excited.”
As for the tip? Well, Streelman declined to share it when he met with the socially distanced media after his round on Friday. It wasn’t anything fundamental, anyway.
“It's actually nothing with the stroke, it's much more visual and getting out into my spot of how I want it to go in,” Streelman said. “I was more into my stroke, and it just kind of freed it up, to be honest.”
Streelman, who is seeking the third win of his career, came to Muirfield Village relaxed after beating the 110-degree heat in Phoenix by spending more time in the pool with his kids last week than playing golf.
He finished fourth in last year’s Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, closing with a 66, and said Jack Nicklaus’ signature layout fits the Midwesterner’s eye. He’s been driving the ball particularly well this week – ranking third in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and second in fairways hit this week.
“There's just shots you've got to step up and hit great shots,” Streelman explained. “... I drive the ball straight. Been able to hit a lot of fairways, and when my putter is on, I know I can compete with most of the guys and (looking forward to) see how I do against these young guys on the weekend.”
Streelman finished a distant second to Nick Taylor at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year. He had a much better chance at the Travelers Championship where he started the final round three shots behind Brendon Todd and one behind Dustin Johnson, the eventual winner.
“I was right there in Hartford,” Streelman said. “I played well enough, and I was bummed to not finish that off. I enjoy that moment. I enjoy having a chance and just going for it. Sometimes you do great and sometimes you don't, but I enjoyed ... having that opportunity to attack and see what you've got.
“I think that's my favorite part of this game, playing it professionally, is going head-to-head with the best players in the world when the cameras are on, when the heat is on and just seeing what you've got. Like I said, some weeks you've got it and some weeks you don't but being in the moment is what's awesome about playing this sport competitively.”