On the ninth green at the Travelers Championship, Kevin Streelman rolled in a tricky 10-foot birdie putt on the 406-yard dogleg par four. With a bounce in his step, he told his caddie he’s going to shoot a “29″ on TPC River Highlands’ back nine.
After Streelman missed the green on both 10 and 11, he had to scramble to save pars. His caddie, A.J. Montecinos, presumably forgot about the brash prediction and seemed to concentrate on providing yardage and steering his man to as profitable a finish as possible. Even when the Illinois-born golfer notched a birdie at the heavily-bunkered 12th hole, and made an obligatory birdie at #13 – the only par five on the home nine – it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Streelman Hones In
Kevin Streelman would then turn it on with three consecutive bombs for birdies – 20’8″, 12’2″ and 37’1″ – at holes 14, 15 and 16, respectively. That made five birdies in a row.
He finished the tournament around the Highlands’ signature four-acre lake on the backside with yet another birdie at the 420-yard 17th hole. Six.
Now Streelman was only a par away from his 29 stroke prophecy.
Astoundingly, he would make his seventh straight birdie for a 28 stroke finish and his second consecutive 64 on the weekend. What seemed impossible became an impressive reality.
Sitting in the clubhouse at 15-under, Streelman had to wait and see if anyone would catch him. There were a few close calls. Sergio Garcia birdied #17, but ultimately finished a stroke behind; K.J. Choi could only par the final five holes, so he also finished a stroke back; and Aaron Baddeley, who held the lead on the front nine, needed a birdie on the final hole to tie, but bogied instead. The field couldn’t touch Streelman’s flawless back nine performance and he came away with the victory.
A Moment in the Spotlight
Streelman, a 35-year old who had not recorded his first PGA win until his 153rd tournament in 2013, now had his second tour title. The out-of-nowhere victory and blistering finish sent scribes hurtling towards the PGA record books.
They discovered that no player had shot a 28 to win on tour since David Duval in 1999 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. That was when Duval was the number one player in the world and finished an epic 13-under par with a 59. By contrast, Kevin Streelman was over par on the tenth tee.
It was a day of records for Streelman. He also one-putted his final ten greens, which no PGA Tour winner had done on Sunday since Matt Kuchar in 2002 at the Honda Classic.
And Streelman wasn’t exactly knocking down pins. These were precision shots – he holed 109 feet, 4 inches worth of putts on the back nine alone. Clearly Streelman’s flat stick was doing the heavy lifting on Connecticut’s TPC River Highlands.
The Ultimate Record
Now what really had golf researchers scrambling were those seven straight birdies Streelman hit to finish a championship. After scouring the archives, the most comparable finish they could find was Mike Souchak’s consecutive birdies on the last six holes to win the 1956 St. Paul Open. If the name “Mike Souchak” sounds vaguely familiar it’s because the man also set the 72-hole PGA Tour scoring record with a 257 at Brackenridge Park in the Texas Open in 1955.
Like Souchak, Kevin Streelman is a Duke graduate. And though Streelman has a ways to go before he can match his fellow Blue Devil’s record of 15 tour wins, he’s still in a very good position indeed.
All in all, it was an unbelievable finish for the Illinois native, and one that will live on in the PGA record books for a long time to come.