Streelman zoned in for second win

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Never be afraid to dream, no matter how crazy and outlandish those thoughts might seem.

Kevin Streelman, 35, started the final round of the Travelers Championship 4 shots off Ryan Moore's 54-hole lead, but always felt he could earn his second PGA Tour victory at TPC River Highlands.


Streelman told his caddie they should go out and shoot a 29 on the back nine to make things interesting.

Boy, did they ever.

By 1-putting the final 10 holes, the longest of which was a 37-foot bomb on the par-3 16th, Streelman held off Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi by a single shot on Sunday.

"The putter was feeling great today, and you know, you can't plan for something like that to happen," said Streelman, who finished with a back-nine 28 en route to a 64. "It just kind of falls into place, and I knew when that putt fell on 16, that kind of something special was happening. And to finish it off with two more [birdies] was something I'll never forget."

Amazingly, the 28 is not even the lowest 9-hole score this year on the PGA Tour. That belongs to Paul Casey, who carded an 8-under 27 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship last month.

Streelman's seven straight birdies to close out a tournament win did break Mike Souchak's record from the 1956 St. Paul Open.

"When you're in the zone like that, when athletes talk about being in the zone, everything is really slow, and it's really clear and concise, and it's very vivid," Streelman said. "And the lines are easy to see. The hole seems to appear bigger. It's something we just wish we could be in every week, but to be honest, it kind of clicked on that ninth green when I started just seeing the lines very clear.

"It's almost to a point it doesn't matter how you read the putts because you just know they're going in before you hit them. That definitely kind of was there on the back 9 for a while."

The day started slowly for Streelman, playing the first seven holes in 2 over. But with that birdie at No. 9, he made the turn in 1-over 36, which had to feel like he a 50 on a course that yielded 42 scores (out of 77 golfers) in red figures Sunday. He proceed to drain 121 feet of putts over the final 10 holes to post the winning score of 15 under.

It's not like Streelman has been lighting it up recently, either. Coming off four straight missed cuts, the Duke University grad posted a pair of weekend 64s to collect the $1,116,000 winner's check.

Streelman's career prior to 2013 suggested solid golfer who could make a nice living and probably keep his card year to year, but don't expect much more than that. He played collegiately at Duke, which might be great if Coach K is giving you a scholarship, but not exactly upper-echelon of the PGA Tour's elite.

Things changed when he won the 2013 Valspar Championship, which led to an invite to the winner's only Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

It was prior to that event in Hawaii when life threw Streelman and his wife Courtney a curveball. During her pregnancy, doctors discovered Courtney had a liver condition. Unless they performed an emergency C-section, their child might not make it.

"We found out about it with just seven, eight weeks to go, and we basically went into the doctor Dec. 24, and he goes these numbers we're seeing are alarming, and we need to get this baby out as soon as possible or else a stillbirth is possible," Streelman said. "So if we wait a few minutes too long, we could regret this the rest of our life.

"So Dec. 26 we go in, and it was the worst Christmas ever because ... trying to find diapers and formula and stuff on Christmas Day is not very easy to do."

Needless to say, golf wasn't exactly priority No. 1.

"They had emergency C section and got the baby out, and we were just hoping to hear a scream because they were concerned about lungs at that point. And they pulled her out and she was quiet for a few seconds and then she let out this belt, this loudest scream, and we just looked at each other and started bawling our eyes out."

After spending a week in the NICU, their daughter Sophie got the all clear from the doctors. So Streelman went to Hawaii for the 2014 opening event.

Sophie Streelman is now 6 months old and even sat in the back of the room for her father's victory news conference Sunday.

Kevin Streelman was never able to enjoy January's week in paradise, worried about his newborn daughter at home -- although he did finish tied for third. After earning a return trip to Hawaii with his Travelers Championship victory, he'll get a second chance to enjoy it with the whole family this time.