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June 12, 2008

Kevin Streelman


Full Audio Interview

RAND JERRIS: We're now joined by Kevin Streelman with a round of 3-under, 68, at Torrey Pines here in the first round. Kevin, you had a fast start at the Buick earlier this year. What is it about this golf course that suits your game?

KEVIN STREELMAN: I don't know exactly what it is. The tee balls all fit my eye well. I play a cut for most left to right shots, but most shots, and it just kind of feels like I'm able to hit that shot out here. I don't know, I just really love the golf course.

RHONDA GLENN: You came out of the gate strong, with birdies on the first four holes. Something you sensed on the practice range this morning.

KEVIN STREELMAN: I did have a great warmup today. The last couple of weeks I've been striking the ball really well. I tried out -- actually got a new putter two days ago, threw it in the bag today and stayed pretty hot today.

Q. When and where did you get married, and if you hadn't qualified, would you be on an extended honeymoon right now?

KEVIN STREELMAN: We got married two weeks ago in Marco Island, Florida, down off the tip of Naples. My wife, Courtney, back there. I think it was definitely a great move, obviously, in our lives, but as far as golf goes, it was great to have a couple of weeks off and kind of refresh everything, as well.

I missed three cuts in a row prior and then made the cut in Atlanta right before the wedding and didn't play that well on the weekend. It definitely was nice just to get all that done and as great an experience as it was, we were able to look forward and really get refreshed and enjoy everything.

Q. In January, you told the story about being on the practice green and looking up and seeing Tiger and being too scared. Did you kind of shake your head and think four or five months later, tied for the lead at the U.S. Open?

KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah, it's been an incredible run on the PGA TOUR thus far, absolutely. I don't think what happens today yet has quite sunk in, but I won't have too much time to sink in because I've got to go early tomorrow morning. I'm going to try to get a quick meal and a great night's sleep and hopefully see you guys tomorrow again.

Q. What does it say about the depth out there on the mini-tour and the fine line separating guys when it's you with Justin Hicks who's toiling in anonymity on the Nationwide Tour and barely hanging on there, presumably he's gone to Q-School like you have, and you're the two guys sitting up on top of Tiger, Phil, Ernie, et cetera, et cetera?

KEVIN STREELMAN: There's definitely a lot of great players that not many know the names of out there. The hard thing with what we do is there's no long-term contracts, as the NFL or NBA has. You have to perform each year, or else you don't get to stay here, and you have to continue to perform. And the difficult, incredible battle of Q-School, which we all have to endure to get here, for the most part, most of us have to endure, but you have to get through the Q-School to get on the Nationwide. There have been books written about it.

I've played well at Q-School and not gotten to the final stage. You get back to square one. You feel like you're as good as a lot of guys out here, you compete against them, played against them in college and growing up, but if you have an off-putting day at Q- School, you could win every mini-tour event of the year, have an off- putting week first stage and you're not here.

I birdied the last four of five holes at my first stage, or I wouldn't be here. I think a lot of it's timing and a lot of it's kind of your journey and your destiny. But fortunately, I've been very blessed and it's been a fun ride.

Q. When you made qualifying for this tournament, how much of a confidence boost was it knowing that you were coming to this course as opposed to Winged Foot or Oakmont where you haven't played before?

KEVIN STREELMAN: There was definitely a familiarity effect. I love a lot of the tee shots out here. I feel the course is set up perfectly for a U.S. Open, very fair. You have abilities to make birdies. You're probably not going to make a bunch of them, but if you hit balls in the right spots, you can save pars. And if you hit great shots, you're rewarded with good birdie looks.

So it's not as brutal, and the fairways don't have the huge slopes on the fairways where you can hit good shots, and it ricochets into the rough. It's a fair golf course and a fair test. It's fun to play.

Q. Would you talk briefly about the putter, what is it, how did you get it?

KEVIN STREELMAN: It was -- it's a Scotty Cameron. I was using a prototype for a while, it was a face-balanced putter, getting a little technical here. It was a little cut out in the back, a little bit easier to hold on line. I switched to -- it's called a Del Mar 3.5 Scotty Cameron that they brought out to me on Tuesday. It's just kind of a face look that I've always liked. It's more toe-balanced, so it swings a little bit more. </ p>

I work with Stan Utley as well, and he took a look at me Wednesday, and we both agreed this putter feels more athletic with it, and a little more of a stroke. The other one is more -- if you're struggling, you go to it, because it holds the face off a little longer. But if you've got rhythm and good flow to your swing, you can use a toe-in putter that you can release to the target.

Q. I believe it was 2004, you said you had $400 in your bank account and were kind of stranded here and the investors in Chicago didn't return your calls. What do you think is going through their minds right now?

KEVIN STREELMAN: I don't know. It's forgive and forget. I've been very blessed to meet the sponsors -- through that I was able to meet the sponsors that I did have for the last three years. They're the loudest group out there today, and second, third families for me. Like I said, everything happens for a reason, and I was very blessed to meet the people I did. It's unfortunate what happened with the other guys, but hopefully they're all doing well, as well.

Q. So many players have used the term "fair" when they've talked about this course. It almost sounds like patrons at Augusta. You had six birdies in your round today; Justin had seven birdies in his round today. Those are pretty significant totals for a U.S. Open. Over the next four days, do you feel this golf course giving up those birdies?

KEVIN STREELMAN: I see the big change that's going to happen, the greens are really going to firm up and quick out a little bit. And that's going to obviously make controlling your golf ball a little more difficult. If you hit 10 to 14 fairways each day, I would say you're going to have a good look at 5, 6, 7 birdie putts. If you hit it in the first cut or -- I'm sorry, the first -- not just off the fairway, but the first primary cut, I guess would be the second cut of the rough, you have a shot hitting into the green. If you hit it into the hay, the third cut, you're wedging out to try to get a full lob wedge in or full sand wedge in.

I think with any U.S. Open, hitting fairways is absolutely critical. But this one is just -- I think you're more rewarded with good shots. Obviously, this is my first U.S. Open, as well, so I'm not sure how sloped the fairways are at Winged Foot or Shinnecock, I haven't been able to play those courses yet. But it seems like if you hit good tee balls, you're rewarded for them.

Q. If you're fortunate enough to find yourself in the position on the weekend where you're playing with Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or somebody like that again, do you think you'll be more prepared than you were in January to handle that situation and be more successful?

KEVIN STREELMAN: Absolutely. I felt I was pretty successful that time. I really played great when I played with Tiger, I felt. I haven't hit inside a lot on the first nine, and didn't make any putts that day. So I do feel like that's what I play for. Those are my dreams to play with those guys. I want to compete against the best of the best and test myself against them. I'm fortunate to play with some great players thus far on the PGA TOUR and it's just been a lot of fun.

Q. Along those lines, did having that experience kind of get you over the "wow" factor, the "awe" factor, now you kind of know that you, you know that you can do it, I suppose?

KEVIN STREELMAN: It does. Like I said, the first time with Tiger was definitely an incredible experience. The first time we walked off the first hole he said, hey, Kev, what's going on, and he was chatting like he was a buddy, you realize they're guys, as well. Most everyone I met on the PGA TOUR has been a good crew of guys and most everyone gets along pretty well.

Q. Could you please talk about hole 10 starting things out, how that hole played and how you dealt with it.

KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. There wasn't a huge gallery there. I wasn't too nervous. I was fortunate to hit a nice tee ball down the middle of the fairway. I hit a smooth 7, because the wind picked up a bit. I worked a shot off the middle of the green and faded back into the middle of the pin and hit it back to 12 feet. And Kenny put a nice read on it and buried it, so it was a nice way to start.

RAND JERRIS: Could you go through yardages and other birdies on your card.

KEVIN STREELMAN: 3, was a lob wedge from 30 yards in the bunker, it was a hole out.

4 -- I'm sorry, 10.

And then, 12, I holed out of the bunker.

13, I hit a great drive down there. They had the tees up, we were able to go at the pin. I was just trying to 3-iron into the middle of the green. The pin was tucked left, and you're not going to stop it at that shelf. I landed in front and it bounced into the back bunker, which it was a -- knew we could have a shot getting up-and-down from it. I hit a great bunker shot to about 8 feet and made that putt.

And then three-putted 14, for bogey.

Came back with a really nice 151 on 15, from a great drive, as well, and hit a 9-iron to about 15 feet past the pin and made that one down the hill.

Parred 16.

Bogeyed 17.

And then 18, I drove it into the right bunker, had a terrible lie, so some caddie didn't do a very good rake job. It was a downslope on the flat of the bunker. I had to get steep on an 8-iron and slash it down. I caught it good. I ended up having almost too close to the pin, 80 yards downwind with the water short, and rough long, you wanted to have a little more full of a lob wedge than I did. We reckoned it was about a 72-yard shot I hit. I landed it about 75 and went up and grabbed there and just had a kick in for birdie.

And I think my last birdie was on 2. I hit a nice drive down the fairway and just had 120 yards into the wind, hit a hold on pitch wedge to the left side. We knew anything right of the pin was going to go all the way to the right side of the green and hit it where we were looking and about a 18-footer there, and made that one as well.

Q. Seems like 12 would be pretty key if you're in the bunker there, hardest hole on the course today. How did you get to the bunker? I assume you hit driver off --

KEVIN STREELMAN: Yes, hit a nice drive. Had a 5-iron in, which was pretty good. We had 210 to the pin, but I was only trying to land it only about 195, because it's going to bounce. I tugged it a little bit, pulled it into the bunker. I was 3- for-3 out of bunkers today, getting up-and-down. I've been kind of nipping at them, right? You're either catching your short game shots right or not, and fortunately, I've been the last week or so and hopefully will continue to do so.

Q. Was this a tournament you always watched when you were growing up and even your early years as a pro? How many years have you plunked down your 150 to get into this, has it been every year since high school?

KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah, from my junior high school on. Every year, I've gotten through the locals quite a bit. I think I have got a couple USGA medals from the USGA medalist. But I've never played very well at the sectional. So to play the way I did last week in Memphis was definitely encouraging.

As far as the U.S. Open goes, it's the biggest tournament in our country. It means everything to a golfer. Especially coming on Father's Day on Sunday, growing up, my dad and I would sit down, one day of the year we could tell mom that we didn't have to cut the grass until at least later in the day, and could enjoy that time together. It means a lot that they can be out here and share with me, as well.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time. Wish you luck the rest of the week.

End of FastScripts

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