By Art Stricklin
BASTROP, Texas – Oklahoma native Robert Streb continues to enjoy the fruits of his breakthrough 2015 PGA Tour season, which saw him gain his first PGA Tour win and amass nine top-10 finishes, including a T18 and a T10 at the British Open and PGA Championship.
He capped his outstanding season, his third full year on the Tour, with a top 20 finish in the season-ending Tour Championship and a ranking as the 34th best player in the world.
It is little wonder Streb was all smiles on a cloudy Thursday in central Texas during a sponsor outing at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort, 20 miles east of Austin.
"I just love playing on the PGA Tour and love being out here," he said as he gave a clinic with good friend and fellow PGA Tour winner Troy Merritt for their shared sponsor, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.
"It was a lot of fun this year with the places and I went and the things I did. Pebble Beach is still one of my favorites, I’m just glad to be out here."
Streb, 28, opened his 2016 season already playing in both the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and China for the HSBC World Golf Championship event in Shangri, China last week, where he finished T35 and brought home a nice $63,000 check he can use on a daughter Catherine Joye’s first Christmas.
He defends his first PGA Tour title at Sea Island, Georgia next week at the McGladry (Now known as RSM) Championship. Streb has one more international golf trip to South Africa early next month before taking almost an entire month of vacation over the holidays. He’ll rejoin the fray in Palm Springs next January.
He plans to spend the extra time with his wife Maggie and Catherine in their home in Kansas City, close to where he attended school at Kansas State, and close enough to his family and friends in Oklahoma for some Christmas visits.
"My wife goes with me almost every week, but sometimes it’s hard on the little one with the time zones," Streb said. "It’s fun to be together and see what she’s doing. We have a birthday party to get ready for early next year."
The family was thinking about going to the Kansas City Royals World Series parade last week, but hearing about the expected huge crowds, they decided to stay home and watch on TV.
While he said he hasn’t made much time to sit and think about his landmark 2015 season there were some definite highlights.
He earned $3.9 million in prize money with a win at the Sea Island PGA Tour event and a second at Greenbrier, where he famously broke his putter late Sunday and made multiple birdies with his wedge on the back nine.
"Getting to play in the British Open at St. Andrews was a first for me and a big thrill," Streb added. "It’s wasn’t nearly as manicured as Augusta National, but it seemed to really fit my game. All the trouble seemed to be away from my natural ballflight and that was a big help.
"Plus the fans were very passionate. I look forward to going back."
Before the actual tournament started, Streb got to play a practice round with five-time British Open Champion and fellow Kansas City resident Tom Watson, who was making his final appearance in golf’s oldest professional major.
"I had always heard you couldn’t hit the ball out of bounds there, but Tom almost did in in our practice round! I was like, ‘haven’t you played here 30 times,’ "
In his next tournament, Streb scored his best-ever World Golf Championship finish with a fith place at the Bridgestone Invitational with weekend rounds of 68-68 and one week later he tied for 10th with closing rounds of 67-67 at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits for his best major finish.
That led the Chickasha native and former Edmond High School golf star to the FedEx Cup playoffs and his first-ever Tour Championship, which also earned him a spot in the 2016 Masters Tournament.
He’s also being considered for a spot on the American Ryder Cup team which will be held in Minnesota next year.
"I haven’t really thought about the Ryder Cup, I don’t know I stand on points (12th), but I know it would be a thrill to play in that, especially on home soil.
"I’m just happy to be out here, happy to be playing golf for a living," said the childhood hockey enthusiast. "With my size and my athletic ability, golf was the right fit for me and I think I made the right choice."
His most recent professional season was certainly proof positive of that.