American Kevin Streelman fired back-to-back rounds of six-under-par 64 on the weekend to post 15-under 265 to win the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. He held off Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South Korean K.J. Choi by one shot to win for the second time in his career on TOUR and for the second time in the last two years.
After firing 64 on Saturday to climb into the top 10, Streelman looked like most guys following a great round the next time out. He bogeyed two of his first seven holes to drop six shots off the lead after beginning the day four back. And then Streelman did what he did the first three rounds of the tournament: he started making birdies. In round one, he carded five. He backed that up with six more on Friday. En route to his six-under 64 on Saturday, he circled seven of them so he was confident on Sunday he could find a few more. Streelman birdied eight of the final 10 holes on Sunday to turn a six-shot, in-round deficit into a one-victory.
For the week he carded 26 birdies against nine bogeys and a double bogey. All three phases were working as he was T17 in fairways, T10 in GIR, third in SGP and first in putts per GIR.
These stats and performance beg my final question: Where has Streelman been?
2014 has been quite stressful for Streelman. If you remember, he and his wife had a baby just days before the Hyundai TOC. He arrived at Kapalua last minute and finished T3 on the high of being a new dad for the first time. Then reality must have set in. He only made eight of his next 13 cuts and only one of those resulted in a top 25 finish (T14 at Wells Fargo). After that T14 at Wells Fargo he slammed the trunk on Friday in his next four leading into this week. To win a golf tournament with 26 birdies, including seven in a row to finish, is quite remarkable. It’s more remarkable considering what Streelman hasn’t done this season.
This week he played his seventh-consecutive Travelers and this is his third top 10 around TPC River Highlands so he needs to be on your radar for next season. Again, anybody who can come off eight rounds with seven of them being over par and rattle off 26 birdies over four days is worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Streelman has showed he can win on a tight course (2013 Innisbrook) and a resort course. That’s a good combo to have and makes him more attractive to gamers down the road.
With his victory, Streelman collects $1,116,000, 500 FedExCup points and will play in all the big-time events in 2014.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 32 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer has been a one-man-gang for Europe with his two massive victories.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 30 events so far in 2014. Scott Langley opened 64-65 but faded to T11, along with Bud Cauley as the best non-winner finishes. The streak of first-time winners (four) came to an end this week.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 17 of 31 leaders have gone on to win but Ryan Moore could not hold his 54-hole lead. He’s held five, 54-hole leads in his career and has completed two of them.
Phil Mickelson remains the only player to defend to his title at TPC River Highlands as defending champion Ken Duke made the cut but didn’t factor.
There have only been two foreign-born winners since 2000.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the multiple winners on TOUR this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38) and 35-year-old Kevin Streelman add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. K.J. Choi was looking to pull a “Ken Duke” in 2014 and win as a 44-year old. He came up one shot short of a playoff. Duke won last year in a playoff at age 44.