34 year-old Kevin Streelman starring in those Wilson Staff commercials as the super confident pro juxtaposed to the high bravado slacker seemed like a stretch to me. Maybe those producers knew something the rest of us had missed about a guy who had yet to win on the PGA Tour. Winning the Tampa Bay Championship from behind Streelman displayed unexpected moxy of someone who had been there and done that.
Boo Weekly came from nowhere shooting a sizzling 63 in the final round to set the clubhouse lead at 8-under. But he would have three hours to eat pizza and sip hard lemonade and see if anyone could match his number and extend his day. The pursuers included Streelman, Justin Leonard, Jim Furyk, and defending champ Luke Donald. Most of them wilted under the pressure struggling to hit fairways and greens on the tight tree -ined back nine of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.
Streelman donned his red cape on the 13th tee and hit a baby fade boldly into a phone booth location between water, bunker, and high rough on the par 3 to set up an unlikely 6-foot birdie putt and grab the outright lead at 9-under. A couple of routine pars on the next two brought him to the fabled snake pit, the last three holes on the Copperhead Course, with the task of making pars to protect a slender one shot lead.
On sixteen he put the thrill back into a three-footer slipping a putt into the right side pocket to save a par. At the long par three seventeenth he put that same aggressive baby fade on his tee ball covering the flag line all the way leaving him a 20-foot birdie putt right up the gut that he buried for another unlikely birdie and a sweet two-shot lead at 10-under going to eighteen.
It was evident that close call misses pursuing in previous events had taught Streelman that playing conservative with the lead is a formula for disappointment on the tour. He played full bore. flag hunting all the way in to close out his first win in style.
We should not be all that surprised at this because Streelman has been on an uphill trajectory for years. After winning a million bucks in the year-long Kodak Challenge in 2009, he had 11 top-10 finishes on the tour in 2010 and 2011 and another 3 in 2012 to compile over $6 million in career winnings.
Guess it is time for a Streelman image rethink for the rest of us. At least this day that “Seriously” line in the Staff commercial seems to fit like a glove.