Friday, December 15, 2017
Golf

Streelman set to defend Valspar Championship at Innisbrook

Kevin Streelman is used to entering a tournament under the radar. This week, things will be different.

As the defending champion of the Valspar Championship, Streelman will have more demands on his time this week. In his seventh full season on the PGA Tour, he has a win to defend for the first time.

"It's pretty cool,'' he said. "It'll be fun to see that parking spot and have a picture on a ticket. It's a neat little bonus. At the same time, you're still last year's news.''

Streelman wasn't making much news until he won here last season. Then he beat Boo Weekley by two strokes, and things changed dramatically.

He no longer had to worry about his Tour status. He played in all four majors and FedEx Cup tournaments and finished 25th in the Cup points standings.

And in December, his wife, Courtney, gave birth to their first child, Sophia. Sophia was born prematurely and had to stay in the hospital for a week.

Streelman said seeing Sophia in the hospital changed his outlook on life.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through,'' he said. "Seeing your daughter hooked up to wires and monitors going off and nurses running in and out. It can change your life in a situation like that. Fortunately for us, Sophia was there for a week and came out looking good and healthy. Seeing all those other children there, and the parents who can't touch their babies, it absolutely rips your heart out.''

"I think that's why I played so well in Maui (tie for third at Tournament of Champions), because I had such proper perspective in life. I realized what golf really was compared to what my family was going through.''

Streelman, 35, has made the cut in all seven of his events this season. He tied for 25th in the WGC Cadillac Championship that ended Sunday.

Streelman said the goal this season is to do well in the majors.

"I'm starting to feel more comfortable and confident in the big events,'' he said. "This year, knowing I'm in all the majors and the WGCs, I'm really trying to focus on those. I'm not saying I'll win a major or anything, but I'd like to get into the hunt and see what happens. I think I've done the work to get ready.''

IRON MAN: Former University of Florida golfer Brian Gay is competing in his 14th straight Valspar Championship. He is the only player in the field to play in all 14 PGA events held at Innisbrook. His best finish is a tie for fourth in 2007.

TODAY: There are no official activities scheduled. Most players start to arrive at the course today and there will be practice rounds throughout the day. Admission is free.

ETC.: Jhonattan Vegas withdrew due to illness. He is replaced by Jim Renner. Chesson Hadley won the Puerto Rico Open last week and earned a spot in this week's field. … Ricky Barnes, Ben Martin, Wes Roach, Danny Lee and Jason Gore entered the field due to top-10 finishes in Puerto Rico. … Harris English is fifth in the current FedEx Cup standings, highest of any player in the field. He has a tournament win and six top-10 finishes this season. … Mark Blakefield, Kevin Kisner, Eric Axley and Michael Hebert qualified for the tournament Monday at Southern Hills Plantation Club.

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