April 20, 2013

RBC HERITAGE: Streelman takes long view

Kevin Streelman took his time getting here, so it makes sense he wouldn’t rush his master plan.

Kevin Streelman took his time getting here, so it makes sense he wouldn’t rush his master plan.

Once a journeyman professional who earned his first PGA Tour victory in March at the Tampa Bay Championship, Streelman has committed to a long-term plan with swing coach Darren May. He thinks his approach separates him from peers who seek the range for a quick fix after a round goes south.

Streelman believes in the numbers, believes his breakthroughs are the result of hours of detailed work. He’s poised for another indication his plan is working, leading at the close to the halfway point of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, 6 under par along with Charley Hoffman and Steve LeBrun.

“There’s no quick something that’s going to make me feel better,” said Streelman, who shot 1-under-par 70 Friday to go with his opening 66. “I know my swing and know what my tendencies are. That’s what I work on.”

Streelman, Hoffman and LeBrun top a crowded leader board at Harbour Town Golf Links. Twenty-one players are within three shots of the lead. Scoring cooled in the second round under breezier conditions, with the weather worsening at the end of the day.

Play was suspended at 6:15 p.m. Friday when storms moved into the area, with the leaders having finished well before the horn. The second round will resume at 8 a.m. today, with 17 players still on the course.

LeBrun’s path unfolded similar to Streelman’s. For 12 years, he bounced around mini tours and enjoyed various levels of Tour status before breaking through with a second-place finish at PGA Tour Qualifying School this past fall to earn his PGA Tour card.

He is competing at Harbour Town for the first time.

“It’s one of those things, I always knew I had the game to be out here,” LeBrun said. “And I plan on being in this position a lot of times.

Former world No. 1 Luke Donald, a perennial Heritage contender, shot 68 and trails the leaders by a stroke. Greenville resident Bill Haas, whose family has strong ties to this tournament and Hilton Head Island, is also a shot back.

First-round leader Brian Davis dropped with four consecutive bogeys from Nos. 15-18, his first nine holes Friday. He followed a 65 with a 75 and is 2 under.

U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, still searching for his magic from that week in San Francisco last summer, reached 5 under, but a double bogey from the sand on the par-4 13th kept him from a later Saturday pairing.

For seven years after graduating from Duke in 2001, Streelman punished three cars while hoofing mini tours trying to make a living. He started on the Gateway Tour in Phoenix and lost all of his money. After his sponsors dumped him, he washed clubs at nearby Kierland Golf Club, playing golf in the afternoon and caddying at exclusive Whisper Rock Golf Club on weekends.

Streelman finally broke through on the mini tours, winning four times in 2007 and earning his card at qualifying school that fall. The next year, he became a member at Whisper Rock, where he once caddied, and won the club championship over fellow PGA Tour pro Billy Mayfair.

Now in his fifth year on tour and the first victory still fresh, Streelman continues to work on his long-range plan. Lately, that has included charting his short game.

From 75 to 100 yards, he hits three balls each at 3-yard increments — 75, 78, 81, 84, etc. — his target a 12-foot circle around the pin representing the tour average for the distances. He conducts similar tests with chipping and putting.

“You’re putting pressure in your practice,” Streelman said. “You do one thing on the range and you do different on the course and people wonder why, it’s because you’re a different person on the range. We’re trying to make the same person on the range as on the course.”

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