This may be the best week of this golf season. At least those who love match play competition will feel that way.
The World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play tees off on Wednesday on the Pete Dye-designed Austin Country Club course in Texas, .and Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman is in the elite 64-player field. Every player has matches on the first three days. Then the winners of the 16 four-man groups settle the championship in weekend matches.
With Doug Ghim and Luke Donald not qualified for the event Streelman is the lone player with Chicago ties in the field, and he may be facing his last chance to qualify for the Masters – the first major championship of the season. It tees off in two weeks at Georgia’s Augusta National.
Streelman will probably have to win either this week or at next week’s Valero Texas Open to get into the Masters field. A win will get him in, and so will a ranking in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Streelman has struggled to crack the top 50 since the last two tournaments of the 2020 portion of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around season.
He goes into the Match Play at No. 58 in the rankings and the top 50 after the Valero Texas Open make it.
Streelman has had his chances to get the high finish that would propel him up in the rankings. Last week he was done in by the fearsome Bear Trap – the three-hole stretch on holes 15-17 at PGA National, the Florida site of the Honda Classic. Two are par-3s and the other a par-4, and they may be the toughest stretch on the PGA Tour – at least they were for Streelman last week.
In the first round of the Honda Streelman made bogey on all three holes of the Bear Trap. That put him in trouble, but he made eagle at No. 18 to salvage a 69 and get back into contention. In Round 2 he made a double bogey at No. 15, in the third he had a bogey at the 16th and on Sunday he made bogey at the 17th and added to his problems with a finishing bogey on the par-5 18th.
During his four rounds on the three-hole stretch Streelman made just two birdies, so he was 5-over-par on those holes and the bogey to finish the tournament was a killer, as it dropped Streelman into a tie for 36th place.
The Match Play represents a good opportunity to bounce back, though. Streelman will battle three foreign players – Norway’s Victor Hovland, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger – for the the group’s spot in this weekend’s Sweet 16. At No. 53 Streelman has the highest seed in that group. Hovland, playing the tournament for the first time, is No. 13, Ancer No. 27 and Wiesberger No. 43.
Sunday’s champion gets $1.82 million from a $10.5 million purse and the last-place finisher receives $35,000.
HERE AND THERE: Luke Donald will compete in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, the PGA Tour’s alternate event in the Dominican Republic this week, while Doug Ghim is taking the week off…The Golfers on Golf Radio show will begin its 31st season on April 3 on WNBZ (750-AM)…Foxford Hills, in Cary, has scheduled its Spring Scramble for April 3….Lohman Quitno Architects will begin a $2.5 million renovation of Abbey Springs, in Fontana, WI., in August….Troon Golf has been named to manage Atkins Golf Club in Urbana, the home course of the University of Illinois teams that was formerly called Stone Creek….The Patriot Education Classic has been scheduled for June 1 at Aurora Country Club.