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Kevin Streelman (right) on the 14th hole during the final round of the Tampa Bay Championship in Palm Harbour, Florida.
PALM HARBOUR, Florida: Kevin Streelman, who went winless in his first 152 US PGA Tour events, finally captured his first title yesterday with a two-stroke victory at the $5.5m Tampa Bay Championship.
The 34-year-old American, whose best prior PGA result was a share of third at Puerto Rico in 2011, fired a bogey-free final round of four-under par-67 to finish 72 holes on 10-under 274 and defeat countryman Boo Weekley by two shots.
“It wasn’t too long ago I was driving around in a car dead broke,” Streelman said. “But it shows if you keep working hard and stay patient, you can accomplish something.”
Streelman birdied two of the first three holes and added birdies at the par-3 13th and 17th holes to secure the victory, his 19-foot (5.8-meter) birdie putt at the penultimate hole and a par at the last good enough for the $990,000 top prize.
“That was really cool,” Streelman said. “I just stayed really patient. I had a peace about me all day today. It was awesome.
“You’ve got to pick your battles. I had a couple numbers on the par-3s that I was able to pull off.”
Streelman put his tee shot at the par-3 13th hole six feet from the cup and sank the putt to take the lead for good, calling his approach “the best shot probably of my life in that situation.”
Weekley, who was in the clubhouse while the 54-hole leaders were barely on the course, fired a 63 to leap from six strokes off the pace and a share of 35th when the round began to the top of the leaderboard, only to finish second.
American Cameron Tringale was third on 277 with defending champion Luke Donald of England, Australian Greg Chalmers and American Justin Leonard sharing fourth on 278.
Weekley, whose win drought since the 2008 Heritage Classic grew to 116 events, birdied two of the first four holes and added runs of three birdies in a row at the ninth to 11th holes and 14th to 16th, then sank a six-foot par putt to reach the clubhouse in front, forcing him to wait on rivals to finish.
“I was going to go catch me some bass in Orlando, but that’s OK,” Weekley said.
“I’ve been hitting it OK but I’ve finally got it all together at one time. I was able to make some putts and hit some drives. It was impressive.”
Leonard, the 1997 British Open winner who last won a US PGA event in 2008, saw his win drought extend to 123 events since he captured the 2008 St Jude Classic, the 40-year-old American’s 12th career title.
There were 18 players within two strokes at the top of the leaderboard when the final pairing of Americans Leonard and Streelman teed off, but the glut of other contenders faded in the back-nine battle.
Leonard and Streelman, co-leaders when the round began, made the turn level for the lead with Weekley in the clubhouse at eight-under.
Streelman missed a six-foot birdie putt at the 12th to stay in a share of the lead while Leonard, who took a bogey at the 10th, sank a five-foot birdie putt at 12 to rejoin the leaders.
While Streelman surged with the par-3 birdies to win, Leonard birdied the par-5 14th but found a greenside bunker at the par-4 16th and left a 20-foot par putt inches short for bogey, then closed with a bogey as well. US 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, who shared seventh on 279, won enough money to allow him to take exemptions for the remainder of the season in hopes of securing enough funds to earn a spot on the 2014 tour.