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 on his way to a 4-under 67 on Sunday for a two-shot win in the Tampa Bay Championship.
Boo Weekley, who teed off three hours before the leaders, had a tournament-best 63 and waited to see if that would be enough.
Streelman, locked in a battle with Justin Leonard over the final hour, came up with one clutch shot after another. He hit 5-iron into 6 feet on the par-3 13th hole, the toughest at Innisbrook in the final round, to take the lead for good.
“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 locked up the win with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and he was all smiles walking up the 18th fairway. Until Sunday, the biggest tournament Streelman won might have been the club championship at Whisper Rock.
He won in his 153rd start on the PGA Tour, and it sends him to the Masters next month for the second time in his career.
“That was really cool,” Streelman said. “I just stayed really patient, and I had a peace about me today.”
He finished at 10-under 274.
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 last week.
The 34-year-old Streelman was 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 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.
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.”