Life is good for Kevin Streelman this week.
On Sunday Chicago’s only homegrown PGA Tour player enjoyed a Bears’ game and steak dinner with some old high school buddies. On Friday the plan was to watch a high school football game between Wheaton South, Streelman’s alma mater, and arch-rival Wheaton North. Each night in between were spent playing video games with retired Bear Brian Urlacher and short commutes to the golf course from Urlacher’s house four minutes away.
All that relaxation has apparently benefitted Streelman’s golf game. The long-time Wheaton resident coped with windy, colder conditions in Friday’s second round of the BMW Championship just fine, tacking a 70 to his 66 of Thursday to stay contention midway through the $8 million tournament at Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
He’ll enter the weekend in a four-way tie for fourth place, trailing co-leaders Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk by five strokes and third-place Zach Johnson by two.
“I’m driving it great, hitting some nice punch shots and really rolling the ball well,’’ said Streelman. “Knowing that I’m in for next week (The Tour Championship in Atlanta), I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m just going to free-wheel it and see what happens. I really feel comfortable, especially in this city – my favorite city in the world. I love the people’’
The feeling is apparently mutual. The crowds have been behind him from the outset.
“All the screams, Wheaton South screams. The support’s been awesome,’’ he admitted.
Streelman came into the third leg of the four-event FedEx Cup Playoffs ranked No. 16 of 70 survivors. He’s a shoo-in to make it into the top 30 qualifiers for Atlanta, given his current 6-under-par standing at Conway Farms.
His score in the second round didn’t match that of his first, but the change in conditions had something to do with that – especially the wind.
“It got me on 11,’’ he said about hitting his tee shot into the water on the par-3 hole.
With the wind in his face Streelman’s shot was barely wet. He found the ball sitting on the rocks bordering a pond. He might have played it from there, but quickly thought better of it.
“The corner of the ball was sitting on solid rock,’’ he said. “That ball could have gone anywhere. It was best to take my medicine.’’
Streelman went back to the front tee and hit a wedge shot fat, leaving him lying three 30 yards short of the green. From there he hit a great chip to within two feet, settled for a double bogey that dropped him from 6-under to 4-under and moved on. He retrieved the two shots lost on that hole with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15.
Already this year Streelman has accumulated $2.9 million in tournament winnings and claimed his first win on the PGA Tour, at the Tampa Bay Championship. His winnings will climb dramatically in these last two big-money events of the season and scoring figures to be better in Saturday’s third round than it was on Friday for all the players.
“Tomorrow the winds should be calmer and it’ll be a little warmer,’’ said Streelman. “The wind will be coming back from the south. It’ll turn in completely the opposite direction and some of the par-5s that were playing super short will play into the wind and some of the par-4s that were playing extremely difficult will be a bit easier. It’ll be a birdie-fest. That should be fun for the fans.’’