ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – This 33-year-old father of two doesn’t come across as a pressure player, but his record doesn’t lie.
Robert Streb is 2-for-3 in playoffs in his PGA Tour career, including Sunday’s two-hole overtime at the RSM Classic. It was the second time Streb needed extra frames at the circuit’s Golden Isles stop and the second time he withstood escalating pressure for the victory. That’s where the similarities end.
Unlike the 2014 RSM Classic, when Streb began the final round five shots back, closed with a freewheeling 63 and beat Brendon de Jonge and Will Mackenzie in a playoff for his first and, until Sunday, only Tour victory, this was intense from the outset.
His ’14 victory was the ideal recipe for a first-time Tour winner. No sleeping on leads. No expectations. No stress. Just a flawless closing round and all the momentum in the world. It was everything this year’s RSM Classic was not for Streb.
Streb, who has bounced between the Tour and Korn Ferry Tour since his breakthrough six years ago, began the last day at Sea Island Golf Club with a three-stroke lead. From the outset he was nervy with the driver but managed to play his first 12 holes in 2 under par before positing his first bogey in 58 holes at No.13.
“It was a little squirrelly there for a little while. I thought I got it righted pretty good yesterday and then just kind of lost it for a little while today. Fortunately, scrambled well enough to have a chance there at the end,” said Streb, who drifted a stroke behind Kevin Kisner with his bogey at the 13th.
But Mr. Clutch – no one is going to call Streb that – delivered an unlikely birdie at the par-3 17th hole, the day’s second-toughest hole, to reclaim a share of the lead.
Even on the first playoff hole, Streb didn’t exactly have the look of a closer. His drive at the 18th hole drifted left and into a bunker and he wasn’t able to reach the green with his second shot followed by a lackluster chip to 4 feet. It was another drive left at the second overtime hole, also No. 18, and another awkward approach from the Bermuda grass rough that Streb guessed would “knuckle” out. He was right.
“We had 158 [yards]. I took a pitching wedge hoping for a flyer. Got the flyer and then fortunately it landed soft,” said Streb, who became the RSM Classic’s first two-time winner. “I was kind of at the mercy of whatever, how little spin was on the ball and it panned out perfectly.”
Streb isn’t one for theatrics, but “it panned out” doesn’t do his walk-off justice. His wedge shot landed a foot from the hole and stopped, setting up a tap-in birdie. But there was no fist pump, no club flip, no celebration, nothing beyond a sheepish smile and a welcome exhale.
“I don't know about that,” Streb said when asked if he considers himself a “playoff” player. “I guess it simplifies it a little bit, you're just playing the guy standing there. It's a little bit different animal, maybe change what you're doing based on what somebody else does.”
Streb isn’t your prototypical clutch player, but he’s now proven twice that when the pressure is the most intense he’s at his very best.