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Streelman wins Tampa Bay Championship

PALM HARBOR

Kevin Streelman could have gotten caught up in the moment when he stood on the 18th tee of Innisbrook's Copperhead Course with a two-shot lead in the final round of the Tampa Bay Championship. He could have thought about the time in 2002 when he ran out of money playing the Gateway Tour and had to caddy and scrub clubs at two courses in Scottsdale, Ariz., to make ends meet.

Or the time in 2003 when he just missed out on becoming the assistant golf coach at Duke, his alma mater. Or the three cars he blew out traveling from tournament to tournament on the minitours.

Or the 152 other PGA Tour events he had played since earning his card in 2008 without getting a victory.

Instead, Streelman ripped his drive down the middle. He hit his wedge to the center of the green and easily two-putted for a final-round 4-under 67 to secure his first tournament win Sunday.

Streelman, who started his third round at par, didn't make a bogey over his final 36 holes and finished at 10-under 274, two shots better than Boo Weekley, who shot 63, the second-lowest final round in tournament history.

Streelman, 34, earned $990,000.

"It's an accumulation of a lot of hard work," he said. "It's a lot of time spent working late in the evening and getting up early in the morning. It's a dream come true."

Streelman, who played in the final group with 1997 British Open champion Justin Leonard, had to outduel a number of players who were in contention throughout the day.

Weekley made the biggest move, finishing his round as the leaders were teeing off. He began with three birdies on the front nine, then caught fire on the back nine. He had five birdies, including three straight on Nos. 14-16, and shot a back-nine 30.

"It was impressive," Weekley said. "I'm still kind of shocked at how well I hit it. I putted the ball well. I had three or four tap-ins."

Weekley's score stood up until Streelman birdied the par-3 13th hole. After birdies on the first and third holes, Streelman rattled off nine straight pars until the 13th. He hit a cut 5 iron to 6 feet of the front right pin placement and drained the putt to move to 9 under.

"We've worked really hard on that shot," Streelman said. "It's one thing to do it on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but to do it on a Sunday was big."

Streelman stayed steady on the next three holes. Then on the par-3 17th, he hit his tee shot to 19 feet and drained the putt to take a two-shot lead over Weekley with one hole to play.

"That freed my mind up a little bit," Streelman said. "I knew I needed bogey to win, and I told my caddie I should do something different on 18. He told me to rip that driver down the middle. I flushed that and knocked the wedge onto the green. It's really magical."

Leonard and George Coetzee were tied for the lead with Streelman at 6 under when the day began. Neither could make a move. Leonard shot par 71 to finish at 6 under. Coetzee shot 3-over 74 and finished at 3 under.

Cameron Tringale made a late run with 5-under 66 to finish third at 7 under, his best finish since turning pro in 2009.

"Like they say in golf, you can't control what other people do," Tringale, 25, said. "I played a solid round of golf, one of the best of my year. That's all you can do."

Streelman said he entered the week with low expectations. He spent the previous Sunday in the emergency room with a virus and didn't feel like himself again until Thursday's first round.

And he doesn't have a great history on the Copperhead Course. He tied for 10th at last year's tournament but missed the cut in 2009 and withdrew in 2008 after shooting 84 in the third round.

"I'm a more mature golfer and person than I was then," Streelman said.

Streelman also qualified for the Masters with his win.

"I have a level of comfort and confidence," he said. "I've put in the work. I kept it one shot at a time. I was really at peace."

>>fast facts

Shot of the day

It wasn't a shot that won the tournament, but it is one 19-year-old Jordan Spieth will never forget. Needing a birdie on one of his final two holes to earn enough money to get a temporary PGA Tour membership for the rest of the season, Spieth chipped in for birdie out of the deep rough on No. 17. He turned pro in December and entered this season with no status on the tour.

Streelman wins Tampa Bay Championship 03/17/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 12:24am]
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