It was back to work this week for Kevin Streelman, Chicago’s lone homegrown PGA Tour player and one of the elite 70 players in the field at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
Last week’s break in the FedEx Cup Playoffs gave Streelman a chance to get away from the rigors of the pro golf tour. He had played in tournaments four of the previous five weeks and six of the last eight.
“I didn’t touch a club for a week,’’ said Streelman. “Just rested and got my body in shape.’’
And had some fun. He went to his first Bears’ game in seven years on Sunday, accompanied by seven friends from his high school days at Wheaton Warrenville South, and then had dinner at MJ’s Steakhouse.
Born in Winfield, the 34-year old Streelman spent the first 18 years of his life living in Wheaton where he played most of his junior golf at Cantigny. When he headed off to college at Duke his parents moved to Winfield and Streelman eventually settled in Scottsdale, Ariz., but he isn’t staying anywhere near his old home town during the BMW Championship. Instead he’s staying with retired Bears’ star Brian Urlacher who lives four minutes from the Conway Farms course.
“I’ve known him for a few years and played some golf with him in the offseason,’’ said Streelman.
It might seem that Streelman, being from the Chicago suburbs, would have at least some local knowledge of Conway Farms – a private facility about to host its first PGA Tour event – but that’s not the case.
“I played a college tournament there – Northwestern’s tournament,’’ said Streelman, “but I vaguely remember it. That was at least 10 years ago. I don’t know what to expect, but we should be able to make a lot of birdies there.’’
That’s to be expected. The players remaining in the FedEx Cup Playoffs make a lot of birdies no matter where their tournaments are played. Conway will be no exception with $8 million on the line beginning on Thursday and more in the offing for the top 30 in the standings after the BMW Championship concludes on Sunday.
Streelman stands 16th in the playoff standings and has a great chance to make the 30-man field for The Tour Championship next week in Atlanta. Another $8 million purse is available there, and the winner of the FedEx Cup gets a $10 million bonus. That lucky fellow could be Streelman if he gets hot.
“I’m confident in my numbers to believe I’ll get through to the last 30,’’ said Streelman, “so I have nothing to lose. Winning in front of my home crowd would be a dream, but I’m not putting pressure on myself.’’
The season already has been a rousing success for Streelman. He made the cut in 16 of 23 tournaments and earned $2.9 million. He also won his first PGA Tour event, the Tampa Bay Classic – a tournament that will be known as the Valspar Classic in 2014 thanks to a new sponsorship agreement.
Next year will be a big one for Streelman, regardless of what happens on the course. His wife Courtney is expecting their first child sometime in 2014.
For now, though, the BMW Championship is his main concern. His swing coach of two years, Darren May, arrived Sunday night and they’ve worked to sharpen his game for this week’s challenge. Streelman needs to climb in the FedEx standings if he’s to make a run at the $10 million bonus in Atlanta. He started the playoffs in 13th position but dropped slightly after finishing in a tie for 19th at The Barclays and a tie for 41st at the Deutsche Bank Championship – the first two playoff events.
The ranking system is complicated, but it’s possible that Streelman could climb all the way to No. 1 if he wins at Conway Farms. If he finishes fourth or better he could climb into the top five heading to Atlanta, and any player ranked that high would win the $10 million bonus by winning The Tour Championship.