ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Edmond North grad Robert Streb thought the wins would keep on coming after his first victory at The RSM Classic. He had to wait six years for the next one, though.
Streb won The RSM Classic again Sunday, becoming the first two-time winner of this decade-old event at Sea Island Resort. He knocked a wedge within inches of the hole to beat Kevin Kisner on the second hole of their sudden-death playoff.
With the win, Streb became the first player since Dave Eichelberger in the 1970s to earn his first two titles at the same event but at least six seasons apart. Eichelberger won the 1971 and 1977 Greater Milwaukee Opens.
Streb’s first RSM victory was the start of a career year. In addition to the victory, he was in a playoff at the Greenbrier, finished fifth in a World Golf Championship and 10th at the PGA Championship. The kid from Kansas State entered the FedExCup Playoffs at No. 6 in the standings, ahead of Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy. Streb made his lone TOUR Championship start that season.
“I kind of expected it would just kind of keep the same trend,” Streb said Sunday. It didn’t. He had more top-10s in the 2015 season (nine) than he did in the next five seasons combined (eight). He finished outside the top 125 in the FedExCup from 2018 to 2020.
“It was tough,” he said. “I felt like things were starting to get a little better and I wasn’t quite getting the results, but I wasn’t expecting this, either.”
Streb jumped 140 spots in the FedExCup to No. 8 in this season’s standings. He earned a spot in the 2021 Masters as well as the World Championship of golf events.
He’s the rare player who doesn’t wear a glove – he didn’t like the way they felt when he was a kid – and uses a 10-finger grip. His swing is immediately identifiable thanks to his aggressive leg drive through impact, which is reminiscent of fellow Kansas resident Tom Watson. Streb’s club is almost perpendicular to the ground on the follow-through.
His long-time instructor, Tosh Hays, said this win, and Streb’s entire career, is a testament to perseverance. Hays has been Streb’s coach since Streb was a teenager.
Streb played college golf at Kansas State, a school not known as a golf powerhouse. He finished 126th in the FedExCup in his first TOUR season, missing the Playoffs by a single stroke. He had to return to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s a lesson to staying committed to what has worked for you, even when times get tough,” Hays said Sunday. “He believes in what he does. What we do, by no means would it work for every player. The most important thing is that you commit and trust what you do. These guys have peaks and valleys in their careers. There have been some valleys in the last couple years. I’m so proud of how he has responded.”
This week, Streb didn’t look like a player who had been struggling with his game. He was the leader at the halfway mark with a career-low score of 128 (65-63). He started Sunday with a three-shot advantage.
He trailed Kisner by a shot after Kisner’s birdie at the par-5 15th, however. Streb three-putted the same hole for par, then missed a 9-foot birdie putt at 16. He tied Kisner with a birdie at the par-3 17th, where he hit a 6-iron to 11 feet. Streb parred the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Kisner, who shot 63 on Sunday. They tied at 19-under 263.
Streb made a scrambling par after driving into a fairway bunker on the first playoff hole, then closed out the win with his incredible approach shot. Both of his RSM wins have come in playoffs but in very different fashion. Streb made double-bogey on the first hole of the 2014 RSM after snap-hooking his tee shot into a bush. He shot a final-round 63 after starting that Sunday five strokes back.
“It’s really nice to say I’ve got more than one (win),” he said. “Winning more than once … validates what ability you have. It was just kind of unexpected and super nice to get (this win).”