ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Robert Streb had only shot in the 60s three times in 12 PGA Tour rounds this season, so he might not have been the most likely player to open with a pair of rounds in the 60s and equal his lowest score on Tour on Friday, a 9-under 63 at the Plantation Course at Sea Island Resort.
Streb said he’d like to say he found something but had a hard time explaining why, after recording only one top-10 finish last season, his game suddenly clicked during the first two rounds of the RSM Classic, allowing him build a two-stroke lead over Camilo Villegas. But this Streb knows about putting: “It seems a lot simpler when they’re going in.”
Indeed, it does. Streb’s putter heated up at the end of his opening round on the Seaside Course on Thursday as he finished with four straight birdies en route to posting 5-under 65. He made more than 142 feet of putts and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Putting, and picked up where he left off on Friday making nine birdies, including at his final two holes of the day.
It was reminiscent of his performance in the final round of the 2014 RSM Classic when Streb’s putter caught fire and he had 11 one-putt greens, including five from more than 10 feet and shot 63 at the Seaside Course to rally from five strokes back, force a playoff and eventually win his first Tour title.
“Just got on a hot run there at the end and ended up in the right place,” he said.
Streb, 33, left that night with a trophy, the biggest check of his life and the security that he’d have a Tour card long enough to secure his pension. He ranked No. 18 in the FedEx Cup that season, but he wasn’t able to build on what looked to be his breakthrough year.
“Kind of thought I would just keep trucking along,” he said. “Didn’t play quite as well and I guess kind of gone through a lull for a little while. I don’t really have a good answer for you other than it’s just taken me too many shots to get the ball in the hole.”
The last few years he’s struggled to maintain his Tour card, including last season when he missed the cut at 12 of 19 events.
“I haven’t been doing anything all that exciting for quite a while,” he said.
But he hit 17 of 18 greens on Friday and he feels comfortable at a place where he takes his kids to look for crabs in the sand and where he enjoys looking at his mug on one of the tournament banners as he drives into the property. Given that he’s unable to explain his sudden good form, he shouldn’t even bother wrestling with this stat and just go with it: The last four winners of the RSM Classic all have held the 36-hole lead.
“I don’t want to be the one that breaks it,” he said. “There’s still a lot of golf left, still got to go play and we’ll see what happens.”