By Ken MacLeod
The holidays are going to be a bit merrier around the Robert Streb household in Kansas City after the 33-year-old PGA Tour veteran and Chickasha native earned his second tour victory Nov. 22 at the RSM Classic.
Sure, the $1,188,000 paycheck comes in handy when buying presents for his wife and two young children, but the victory brings much more than money. It assures Streb of a full schedule for 2021, including appearances in the Masters, the PGA Championship, the Players Championship and World Golf Championship events. It keeps his card for two years and gives three-year exemptions into certain events, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and the WGC events.
For the last three years, none of that could be taken for granted.
“It changes everything,” Streb told Golf Oklahoma this week. “I don’t have to wait and see what I’m going to get in to. Last year was a tough year, but because of the pandemic they extended my status and I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of that.
“Now I can set my schedule with the big events and some of my favorite events and concentrate on getting back to being a top 50 player. I can play when I’m playing well. Sometimes you get to chasing your tail a bit with the schedule.”
Streb, 33, won the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons, Ga., for the first time in 2015. He continued to play solidly in 2016 and 2017, making the FedEx Cup playoffs both years, but since then his highlights have been more sporadic. Most of them have come when his back was against the wall in terms of keeping his playing privileges.
In 2018 he had the first major slump of his professional career and had to go to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals for a chance to keep his card. He immediately won at the Scarlet Course at Ohio State University.
He played somewhat better in 2019, but again had to go to the KFT Finals. He responded with a fifth place finish in Columbus and again earned his status by being one of the top 25 finishers in the Finals.
“I got myself in a few more corners than I would have liked, but I did manage to get out of them,” Streb said. “It does make you ask yourself why am I getting in these situations. Hopefully I can now get on a nice run and stay out here a while.”
“In 2018 his swing was just off,” said Tosh Hayes, Streb’s longtime instructor who is the director of junior instruction at Oak Tree Country Club and coach of Oklahoma Christian. “In 2019 it was better, but we just missed a lot of cuts by a shot or two.
“This win does so much for him. The biggest emotion for me watching was not shock or surprise, but relief. It validates that all the work he’s been doing is good work. It’s good to see Robert get paid off for him continuing to believe and trust and work so hard. He never panicked and kept fighting through everything that was going on.”
No one was happier for Streb, the two-time Oklahoma Open champion, than OGA Executive Director Mark Felder. Streb came back to play in the Open last summer when his schedule was open that week.
“It just shows you so much about his character that he would come back and support us,” Felder said. “As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the best guys we’ve met. I had him pegged when he was 14, he was just so polite and gracious, you didn’t know if you were talking to a junior golfer or an investment banker. We’re thrilled for him.”
Streb , who played high school golf at Edmond North before going to Kansas State, put on a clinic of both ball striking and putting in his recent victory. He only needed a tap-in after nearly holing out from the fairway on the second playoff hole against Kevin Kisner.
A shot like that would normally have sent a gallery into a frenzy, but of course there haven’t been fans at events since March.
“It’s really quiet out there,” Streb said. “Not that all the events are super crowded, but usually there’s a fair amount of people. With no noise, you don’t know what anyone else is doing when you’re coming down the stretch. Then again, it makes it easier to stick to what you want to do.”
Streb has outfitted his basement with a Foresight launch monitor to keep sharp during the time off when it’s too cold to play and practice at his favorite Kansas City haunts, Lake Quivira Country Club and Wolf Creek Golf Club in Olathe. He will be off until the Sony Open in Hawaii Jan. 14-17.
“The kids are really excited about Christmas,” he said. “This is the fun age.”
With the perks a hard-earned PGA Tour victory brings, dad’s pretty excited about it as well.