For 11 holes, Kevin Streelman was having a desultory round of golf at the Travelers Championship’s final round Sunday at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell. Then it all clicked.
The 36-year-old made history, setting a record by recording birdies on the last seven holes to win a title, which he did by one stroke over Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi. Streelman finished with a 64 on Sunday and 15-under par for the tournament. Nobody had ever birdied the last seven holes of a PGA Tour event to win, never. The previous record for birdies on the final holes to win a championship was six by Mike Souchak at the St. Paul Open back in 1956.
Streelman, who was one-over-par on the front side, clinched the win and finished off a magical stretch of holes when he hit a drive to just about the cart path that crosses the fairway of the par-four 444-yard 18th hole, hit a short iron to within 10 feet of the hole. He calmly stepped up to the putt with the tournament on the line and drilled it in to the raucous applause and yelling of the thousands of sun-baked fans that surrounded and lined the 18th green and fairway.
Both Garcia and Choi has birdie putts on 18 to tie Streelman but they failed to make them. Aaron Baddeley also came to 18 with a chance to tie but he pushed his tee shot into the nasty rough on the right side, chunked his approach short of the green and failed to hole the long chip shot.
Streelman, who won for the second time on Tour in two years (he captured the 2013 Tampa Bay Classic), said he’s approaching golf from a new perspective, with that new perspective firmly in his arms as he walked off the 18th green and up the hill to the scorer’s tent.
Streelman, who needed only 10 putts and shot a remarkable 28 on the back side Sunday recorded rounds of 64 in both the third and final rounds to come out of the pack and take home the $1.16 million first place check. The 500 FedEx Cup points he picked up for the win moved him up to 27th on the list.
Said the winner, “I knew someone was going to have to go win the golf tournament. It’s so much fun to come down the stretch and have 15 (a short par-four) and then 17, if you hit a good drive, you can make birdie there. To put it all together is what I work for, what I practice hard for, and it’s been a really fun week.”
Garcia played brilliant as well down the stretch and made a crucial birdie on the difficult 17th hole to give himself a shot at catching Streelman. His 25-foot putt on the 18th green slid left of the hole by about a foot, while Choi, facing a 35-foot downhill putt earlier, also couldn’t find the cup. Both shot 67 Sunday.
Offered Streelman, who missed the cut in his last four tournaments coming into the Travelers Championship, “I talked to some of my friends on Tour, guys like Ben Crane, and they gave me a different attitude about how to approach things out here. Golf had become too important in my life. I have a newborn baby and she and my wife (Courtney) are the focus of my life. I’m letting my golf just happen.”
Happen it did for Kevin Streelman on Sunday, and he made history in the process.
The Travelers Championship is one of the longest running tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. For tickets visit www.TravelersChampionship.com