KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Kevin Streelman didn’t know what to expect at the PGA Championship. The long-time PGA Tour pro sure didn’t believe he’d be in contention for a major title Sunday.
“You never know,” Streelman said with a grin, “when the stars align.”
Things are lining up very well for Streelman. He was 4 under through three rounds at the Ocean Course, just three shots behind leader Phil Mickelson.
And should Jupiter align with Mars once more, it might just be the 42-year-old Streelman holding the Wanamaker Trophy over a bevy of major champions
Streelman shot a 70 on Saturday.
After Lefty, with his 44 career victories and five majors, on the leaderboard is four-time major champ Brooks Koepka in second at 6 under and past British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen in third. It’s a trio with savvy, talent and experience.
Close behind Steelman at 2 under were past U.S. Open winners in Gary Woodland ( 2019) and Bryson DeChambeau (2020).
And then there’s Streelman, with two career PGA Tour victories (the last in 2014) who has played just four majors since 2017.
“I haven’t had this opportunity many times,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy it, do my best and be okay with the result and whatever happens.”
Don’t count Streelman out. At 42, he’s enjoying a resurgence in his game much like contemporaries in 49-year-old Brian Gay and 48-year-old Stewart Cink, who both won on the PGA Tour this season — “I’m not that old,” Streelman countered.
Still, Streelman went from 187th in the world ranking at the end of 2018 to 52nd two years later. He’s at No. 64 currently and his strong showing here might move him into the top 60, meaning he won’t have go through the rigorous qualifying to play in next month’s U.S. Open for just the second time since 2015.
Streelman’s certainly taken to the Ocean Course. He started with a 70 on Thursday when just 29 players broke par on the course along the Atlantic Ocean. He stayed close to the top with an even-par 72 before his third-round performance moved him into position for the biggest victory of his career.
Streelman saw the course for the first time Monday and understood it suited his game. He’s consistently accurate with his driver, has hit crisp irons so far and made putts. This week, he’s tied for seventh in driving accuracy, 20th in strokes gained on his approaches and tied for 13th in putting.
“Those make for a good, complete package,” he said. “So one more big day.”
Streelman believes his improvement came from seeing the power surge younger players brought to the game. He resolved to stay healthy and engaged. He remembers 15 years or so ago when just a handful of players regularly used fitness trailers during events.
These days, there’s a waiting list to get in as the next generation of stronger, younger players make their mark.
For Streelman, it’s “just doing everything smart, trying to stretch a lot, eat right, don’t drink too much wine and just kind of enjoy yourself when you can.”
He won’t change his approach or his focus with the late starting time and knowing what’s at stake. Streelman’s just as thrilled he’ll see his family — wife Courtney and children Rhett and Sophia — who are arriving Saturday and will join him on the road at the Colonial and Memorial tournaments the next few weeks.
“So I’m excited to see them,” he said.
Streelman plans to enjoy it all on Sunday. If he challenges for the top or fades down the leaderboard, he’ll keep things in the right perspective and prepare for what’s next.
“If it’s 65 or 85, my kids are still going to give me a hug when I’m done,” he said. “What gives me peace is I know I tried my best 72 holes each week and I’m OK with the result.”
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