Travelers Check

Mike Glasscott
Kevin Streelman birdied the final seven birdies en route to victory and a payday in excess of $1 million at the Travelers Championship

American Kevin Streelman fired back-to-back rounds of six-under-par 64 on the weekend to post 15-under 265 to win the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. He held off Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South Korean K.J. Choi by one shot to win for the second time in his career on TOUR and for the second time in the last two years.

After firing 64 on Saturday to climb into the top 10, Streelman looked like most guys following a great round the next time out. He bogeyed two of his first seven holes to drop six shots off the lead after beginning the day four back. And then Streelman did what he did the first three rounds of the tournament: he started making birdies. In round one, he carded five. He backed that up with six more on Friday. En route to his six-under 64 on Saturday, he circled seven of them so he was confident on Sunday he could find a few more. Streelman birdied eight of the final 10 holes on Sunday to turn a six-shot, in-round deficit into a one-victory.

For the week he carded 26 birdies against nine bogeys and a double bogey. All three phases were working as he was T17 in fairways, T10 in GIR, third in SGP and first in putts per GIR.

These stats and performance beg my final question: Where has Streelman been?

2014 has been quite stressful for Streelman. If you remember, he and his wife had a baby just days before the Hyundai TOC. He arrived at Kapalua last minute and finished T3 on the high of being a new dad for the first time. Then reality must have set in. He only made eight of his next 13 cuts and only one of those resulted in a top 25 finish (T14 at Wells Fargo). After that T14 at Wells Fargo he slammed the trunk on Friday in his next four leading into this week. To win a golf tournament with 26 birdies, including seven in a row to finish, is quite remarkable. It’s more remarkable considering what Streelman hasn’t done this season.

This week he played his seventh-consecutive Travelers and this is his third top 10 around TPC River Highlands so he needs to be on your radar for next season. Again, anybody who can come off eight rounds with seven of them being over par and rattle off 26 birdies over four days is worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Streelman has showed he can win on a tight course (2013 Innisbrook) and a resort course. That’s a good combo to have and makes him more attractive to gamers down the road.

With his victory, Streelman collects $1,116,000, 500 FedExCup points and will play in all the big-time events in 2014.

Déjà vu All Over Again?

After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 32 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.

Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer has been a one-man-gang for Europe with his two massive victories.

S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 30 events so far in 2014.  Scott Langley opened 64-65 but faded to T11, along with Bud Cauley as the best non-winner finishes. The streak of first-time winners (four) came to an end this week.

Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 17 of 31 leaders have gone on to win but Ryan Moore could not hold his 54-hole lead. He’s held five, 54-hole leads in his career and has completed two of them.

Phil Mickelson remains the only player to defend to his title at TPC River Highlands as defending champion Ken Duke made the cut but didn’t factor.

There have only been two foreign-born winners since 2000.

Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the multiple winners on TOUR this season.

Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys

Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38) and 35-year-old Kevin Streelman add to the prime-timers trophy case.

Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.

Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. K.J. Choi was looking to pull a “Ken Duke” in 2014 and win as a 44-year old. He came up one shot short of a playoff. Duke won last year in a playoff at age 44.

Hindsight

What I learned from the finishers in the top 10

Sergio Garcia: Those of you who gambled on him being fit were handsomely rewarded as the Spaniard put all four rounds in the 60s and made 21 birdies to finish one shot out of a playoff. Garcia, not surprisingly, led the field in GIR and his putter was good enough for T17 putts per GIR. Let’s make it six top 10s in 10 starts on TOUR this year. I sadly let him out of my lineup this week for Ryan Moore. #nobonuspoints

K.J. Choi: As mentioned above, the South Korean looked to make it back-to-back 44-year old winners but fell one shot short. He’ll rue a double-bogey on No. 18 on Thursday that was his only crooked number of the week. He ended up with 23 birdies, second most, was T8 in GIR and led the field in SGP. His second T2 of the season (Torrey Pines) sees him break the $1 million mark in earnings for the first time since he made $4.4 million in 2011. He’s made 12 cuts from 15 so he’s playing well enough to take a look at each week he’s playing.

Aaron Baddeley: Playing in the final group for the first time in a while, the Aussie led at 14-under after seven holes. He has been working on swing changes throughout the season and his ball-striking has suffered greatly. He entered the week 183rd in fairways and 174 in GIR. His saving grace, as usual, is that he’s the fifth-best putter (total putting) on TOUR and he’s first in SGP. He needed birdie on the final hole to force a playoff and instead he made bogey to take home solo fourth. He was trending in this direction with finishes of T51, T37 and T23 in his last three on TOUR. Baddeley has two top 10s this season and hasn’t had more than three of these since 2011. His best finish at Travelers before this week was just T24. It’s his first top 10 since last November.

Brendan Steele: A legitimate horse-for-course at TPC River Highlands as his T5 this week piggybacks a pair of T13s over the last three years. This week Steele ditched the long putter and went back to a standard size. He opened with 62 but his 71-69 middle saw him on the outside of the top 10 looking in on Sunday. His 66 on the final day shot him into T5 and his best finish since T6 at WMPO in February.  Steele had the full Monty on display this week as he was T11 in fairways, T10 GIR and T5 in putts per GIR. Who would have guessed he entered this week on MC, MC…

Ryan Moore: Gamers, like me, were thrilled to see Moore sitting on the 54-hole lead as he was the pick over Garcia this week in Yahoo! When Sunday ended, his T5 ended up being quite disappointing. Alas, Moore hits the top seven for the fifth time in nine starts at the Travelers but he didn’t pay off like gamers would have liked. We’re a picky bunch.

Harris English: For the third week in a row a player on the FADE list has made it into the top 10! After not finishing better than T30 in his last seven events, gamers were thrilled to see English coming back to life. There was not a question IF he would, but WHEN he was going to do so. Gamers, PLEASE beware moving forward that English was T68 in fairways and T67 GIR this week. That’s not exactly “hot”. His putter was hot though as he was fifth in SGP. Gulp. One hot club is better than ZERO hot clubs. I’ll proceed cautiously but T7 is heading in the right direction.

Jeff Maggert: Where was Maggert last week when he was my Group 4 play??? That’s the story of my life, a day late and a dollar short. Well, more than one dollar short but you get the analogy. Old Man Maggert parred THIS COURSE to death instead of Pinehurst No. 2. Maybe because it was 700 yards shorter he had more success. He only made four bogeys this week as well. He was 72nd in driving distance this week but yet T3 GIR. No wonder why he bagged his first top 10 on TOUR since last year’s T2 at THE PLAYERS.

Chad Campbell: Of the 13 guys who shot 65 or better on Thursday, nine of them finished T11 or better. Chad Campbell was one of them and he finished T7. When Campbell pops up on leaderboards, there is usually one big reason why: ball-striking. He was T4 in fairways and T6 GIR. He made just enough putts to avoid bogeys as he led the tournament with just three for the week. He also racked up 53 pars which preserved his opening round of 64. This was his first top 10 and top 25 since July of last year. This is the time of year when he turns it on!

Carl Pettersson: He hit as many greens as Garcia so it’s not a surprise that Pettersson also found the top 10 (T7) this week for his second consecutive event. Pettersson was T3 in Memphis two weeks ago so he makes a quick return to The Takeaway! The reason he’s playing well is because he’s playing well, not because he’s a horse-for-course so that should encourage gamers. He was first in GIR in Memphis and T1 this week. He’s on fire!

Chalk Dust

What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?

Bubba Watson: This will be just his second finish outside of the top four in five events at TPC River Highlands. He only made six bogeys on the week but he only made 14 birdies. He was near the bottom in driving accuracy and in the wrong half of GIR so it’s no surprise he didn’t contend this week. His second round of 72 included three bogeys and a double but he only made three bogeys the rest of the week so gamers shouldn’t be worrying. T31    

Matt Kuchar: The birthday boy shot 72 on Saturday, his 36th birthday. The ONLY time Matt Kuchar would be happy shooting 72 on his birthday would be when he turns 72. He made only one bogey in the first two rounds before six of them on Saturday. He needed a monster round on Sunday to bail out gamers but his 69 was only good for T31 as well.

Dustin Johnson: I have limited starts on him and Kuchar so I wasn’t thrilled when both of them entered the weekend just a handful of shots out of first place. They both finished the weekend T31 and I dodged a pair of bullets. Johnson turned 30 on Sunday so we all have to change our stat packs that include him “as a golfer in his 20s”. He’s a threat to win every week and will be until he turns 50.

Keegan Bradley: Make it four in a row at T31! What are the odds on THAT happening? Bradley birdied five of his first seven holes on Sunday to jump into the top 15 but bogeyed three of his next six to drop back. There were 77 players that made the cut. Bradley finished the week 75th in GIR. This was a let-down for gamers after his T4 finish at the U.S. Open and a return to his native Northeast.

Ryan Moore: T5, see above.

Jason Day: The question I always have with Day is whether or not normal TOUR events capture his full attention. His closing 65 helped all of us in Yahoo! who put him in the lineup on Sunday but his T18 won’t thrill weekly gamers looking for bigger results. He it all over the shop, was T61 in GIR and didn’t make anything on the greens. Day’s biggest advantages are his length and spotless short game. I’d rather have him on lightning fast greens than shaggy rugs. Mark him down for next week at Congressional.

Charley Hoffman: Plenty of birdies and plenty of bogeys saw roller coaster Hoffman check in at T26. Sunday’s round was a microcosm of his week as he bogeyed two of his first three and then holed five birdies in his final fifteen holes to post 67.  He was T10 in GIR and T17 in fairways but he was only 72nd in strokes gained-putting. His T28 breaks off a T2-T7 run over the last two years but it’s now five in a row at TPC River Highlands with nothing worse than T43.

Freddie Jacobson: Hey, look! ANOTHER T31! After putting all four rounds in the 60s, T31 is bittersweet for gamers who were hoping for another top finish. His last four in Connecticut are WIN, T8, T30 and T31 so he’s a quality option around these parts.

Sergio Garcia: T2, see above.

Graham DeLaet: He’s stock continues to swing wildly as he has been on a streak of all-or-nothing since May in five events. He MC at THE PLAYERS and U.S. Open but was T7 in Dallas and T14. His T51 included plenty of pars and very few bogeys but also only included 11 birdies. Wanna guess which club in his bag held him back?

 

Coming Wednesday

                                            

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Quicken Loans National and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (https://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (https://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.