Sunday, March 17, 2013


PALM HARBOR, Florida -- Kevin Streelman finally won on the US PGA Tour with a game that looked as if he had done this many times before.
Streelman didn't make a bogey over the final 37 holes on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook. He didn't miss a shot over the last 11 holes Sunday on his way to a 4-under 67 for 14-under-par 274. That gave him a two-shot win over Boo Weekley, who posted the clubhouse target of 276 with a brilliant last round of 63 in the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank.
Streelman won in his 153rd start on the US Tour. The win gives him 500 FedExCup points and puts him into the Masters for the second time in his career.
Weekley closed with a tournament-best 63 some three hours before Streelman finished.
Defending champion Luke Donald finished a creditable joint fourth with a 69 for 278. But for a cluster of late bogeys in an earlier round he would have gone very close to figuring in a play-off.  
Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old from Texas, tied for seventh and earned special temporary membership on the US PGA Tour.

Boo Weekley had planned to get an early jump on the drive to Orlando after Sunday’s final round at the Tampa Bay Championship, hoping to throw a line into some of the ponds at Bay Hill.
Instead, he faced a three-hour wait around Innisbrook – courtesy of the 8-under-par 63 that put him in line for a potential playoff.

“It’s all right,” Weekley said with a shrug. “I’ll wait.”

The homespun Floridian relaxed with some pizza after posting his lowest round since the 2010 Greenbrier Classic. That was before injuries ganged up to spoil not only his golf swing, but his bow hunting.

But this weekend has shown glimpses of the Weekley that won back-to-back at Hilton Head and helped the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team to victory. He played his final 30 holes without a bogey, pouring in eight birdies on Sunday.

Each of his final two birdies, at Nos. 15 and 16, came after crisp irons that stopped less than 2 feet from the flagstick.

“It was impressive. Even I’m still kind of shocked at how well I really hit it,” Weekley said. “It was one of the best ball-striking days I’ve had in a long time. I had three or four tap-ins today.”

Sunday’s performance also came at a course that has bedeviled Weekley for years. Even though Innisbrook has the same type of tree-lined fairways as courses he grew up on in the Florida Panhandle, he’d missed the cut in four of his past five appearances.

His best finish on the Copperhead was his first, a tie for 22nd back in 2002.

“I think I was more happy when I made the cut here (Friday), to tell you the truth,” Weekley said. “It’s been such a long time. This course has given me fits. Now that I’d made the cut and could actually get myself up in contention, it felt good.”

After extra work with coach Scott Hamilton this week to get a better read on the Copperhead’s hard undulations, Weekley started seeing a pay-off.

“We started adding a little more break (on the putts) to what I’m normally seeing,” he said. “Then when I started seeing a little more break, I started seeing the putts fall.

“When you haven’t been out there in so long, you get nervous. It feels great now – it’s over with.”
The wait, though, was only beginning.

Par 288 (4x72)
Players from US unless stated
274 Kevin Streelman 73 69 65 67.
276 Boo Weekley 72 70 71 63.
277 Cameron Tringale 71 70 70 66.
278 Luke Donald (England) 70 72 67 69, Greg Chalmers (Australia) 71 68 69 70, Justin Leonard 71 69 67 71.
279 Pat Perez 71 71 70 67, Sergio Garcia (Spain) 71 67 72 69, Harris English 68 69 73 69, Shawn  Stefani 65 70 74 70, Jordan Spieth 72 68 69 70, Ben Kohles 72 67 69 71, Jim Furyk 72 69 67 71.

284  Adam Scott (Australia) 70 66 76 72 (T30)
288 Brian Davis (England) 71 69 73 75 (T56)
292 Martin Laird (Scotland) 73 71 73 75 (T70)

  Kevin Streelman with the Tampa Bay Championship trophy
                  Picture by courtesy of Getty Images(c)
PALM HARBOR, Florida -- The uphill climb to the 18th green at Innisbrook was nothing compared with the journey that brought Kevin Streelman his first US PGA Tour
His biggest claim on TOUR was winning a $1 million bonus from the Kodak Challenge in 2009. His last win was five years ago in the club championship at Whisper Rock.
Streelman won the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank on Sunday in his 153rd start on the PGA TOUR and moved to No. 6 in the latest FedExCup standings.
The way he played this weekend on the tough Copperhead course -- particularly the back nine -- made it look as if he had done this many times before.
"Always had a dream of getting here," Streelman said. "And so to get this is the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent late into the evening, and getting up early in the morning. And it's really a dream come true."
Streelman took the lead for good with a 5-iron into 6 feet on the par-3 13th, the toughest at Innisbrook on the final day, for a birdie.
"Probably the best shot of my life in that situation," Streelman said. "It's just how I envisioned it and I pulled it off."
He played with so much peace and precision that his target on the daunting tee shot at the 16th hole was a group of four trees. He aimed between the second and third tree. And he met his final challenge with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole, leading to a 4-under 67.
Streelman didn't make a bogey over the last 37 holes. He didn't miss a shot the last 11 holes.
"Hopefully, we can do it again," Streelman said. "This is a lot of fun."
Boo Weekley, who teed off three hours before the leaders, had a tournament-best 63 and waited to see if that would be enough. He kept up hopes until Streelman made birdie on the 17th, and then ripped another tee shot down the middle on the 18th.
The victory sends Streelman, who finished at 10-under 274, to the Masters next month for the second time in his career.
Cameron Tringale had a 66 and finished alone in third when Leonard, who earlier made bogey from the bunker on the 16th, three-putted the final hole for a 71. Leonard wound up in a tie for fourth with defending champion Luke Donald (69) and Greg Chalmers (70).
The other big winner was Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old from Texas who holed a 50-foot chip for birdie on the 17th hole and made a 7-foot par putt on the final hole for a 70 to tie for seventh.

That gave him enough money to earn special temporary membership on the PGA TOUR for the rest of the year, meaning he can take unlimited sponsor exemptions.
Until making that chip, Spieth was projected to be $195 short of the temporary membership, which is based on earning the equivalent of 150th on the money list last year.
"That would have been brutal," he said with a grin. "But it's nice to get the crowd excited on 17. That was one of the coolest shots I've ever hit. That was as loud as it gets. Hair on the back of your neck stands up. But yeah, if I was $200, short, I would have just asked if I could pay them $200."
He now has earned $521,893 in three starts, the bulk of that coming from a runner-up finish in the Puerto Rico Open presented by last week.
The 34-year-old Streelman had the 14th consecutive win by an American in official PGA TOUR events, dating to Tommy Gainey at Sea Island last fall. Americans have won the first 12 events of the season, their best streak since winning 13 in a row in 1989.
All that mattered to Streelman was finally getting a win.
"Just keep chasing your dreams," Streelman said. "You never know what will happen."
Sixteen players were within three shots of the lead when the final round began, and anything could have happened. No one imagined a 63 at Innisbrook, and Weekley's round was so strong that it was 8.6 shots better than the field average.
"That will go down as one of the best rounds of the year," Pat Perez said in the parking lot, pleased with his own 67 and stunned someone could have a 63.
Weekley began his round by missing a 4-foot birdie putt, and he closed with such brilliance that he ran off three straight birdies on the back nine from inside 2 feet.
"It was impressive," Weekley said. "Even I'm still kind of shocked at how good I really hit it. The greens that I missed, I thought were going to be perfect. Overall, one of the best days I've had in ball striking in a long time."
Considering what was on the line, Streelman's performance might have been better, even if his score was only a 67. He had to play in the final group, knowing that he hasn't had a chance this good to finally win.
"That was really cool," Streelman said. "I just stayed really patient, and I had a peace about me today."
Leonard tied him for the lead on the 12th, where Streelman missed a short birdie. Every shot after that was right where Streelman was aiming, including the key shot on the 16th hole, when he hit driver with a baby cut that worked its way around the lake.
The birdie on the 17th kept some stress out of the final hole, and Streelman played that the way he had the other holes on the back nine.
"It definitely has not sunk in yet," Streelman said. "It's a total dream come true. Ten years ago, I was in a car driving to mini tours and the Hooters Tour and Gateway Tour and U.S. Pro Tour. And I've been very blessed, but I've worked very hard to get here, too. The game is getting harder and younger, and these kids are fearless out here. I've worked diligently, and I think smarter as of late, and fortunately it paid off." 



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