By Art Stricklin
AUSTIN Robert Streb entered the 2016 World Golf Championship Dell Match Play with a unique amount of experience, as the worldâ€™s top 64 ranked golfers compete at Austin Country Club in the seldom-used format.
That would be none. No match play experience in his brief professional career. None in his stellar college career at Kansas State. Only a handful of match play rounds as an amateur playing in United States Golf Association events. Thatâ€™s the sum total of his match play knowledge before his opening round match Wednesday with Dustin Johnson.
â€œThey say youâ€™re supposed to play the opponent, not the golf course. Thatâ€™s what I plan to do,â€ Streb said as he warmed up on the range, in brisk winds at the historic Texas layout.
Not that just playing the course would be much help. Before he arrived on Sunday, Streb had never seen the Austin Country Club layout, designed by Pete Dye either.
â€œI played nine holes on Sunday and nine yesterday (Monday). Itâ€™s very nice. Iâ€™m interested to see what is going to happen this week.â€
Streb, the Chickasha native who starred in Oklahoma junior golf before moving to an All-America career at KSU, is playing this week as a result of his stellar play over the last year which included a victory last fall in the PGA Tourâ€™s McGladrey Classic.
He comes in this week ranked 51 in the Official World Golf Rankings playing Johnson ranked 9th in OWGR.
The first three days are not strict match play, but pool play, meaning all players are guaranteed at least three rounds in the event, with the best three-day record advancing to the weekend elimination play.
Streb will also play Jimmy Walker and on Thursday and Kiradech Aphibarnrat on Friday before deciding who moves on.
â€œIâ€™m excited about this week. I will have the wife and family here. My parents were in Bay Hill last week, but they may come for the weekend.â€
In 11 events so far in the 2016, his best finish is a tie for 18th at the Farmers Classic in San Diego. But he has struggled to find the consistent form he showed in 2015, his best year as a professional.
After the match play this week, he is not playing in Houston next week, but spending the week at home practicing and getting ready for the Masters Tournament. He will arrive at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before Masters for on-site work at the first major championship of the year.
â€œYou just have to get ready and play the best golf at the best courses for your game,â€ Streb said. â€œThis is something new for me, but weâ€™ll take this, see what happens, and move on to the Masters.â€