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November 10, 2009

Kevin Streelman


MARK STEVENS: We're joined this afternoon by Kevin Streelman. Kevin, you've had one third place finish this year on the PGA TOUR. You're currently 89th in earnings. Last year you finished tied for sixth at this event, but I guess the main thing is you're in the driver's seat for the Kodak Challenge. Maybe open us up with a few comments about that.
KEVIN STREELMAN: What's that? (Laughs). Yeah, it's been a lot of fun to be a part of it. It's kind of grown in magnitude and excitement, I'd say, throughout the year.
It started out where not a ton of the guys were too sure what was going on with the Kodak Challenge holes. We'd see the, you know, the placards on each of the holes for that particular meet, but for the first half of the season I was like, you know, we didn't know a ton of what was going on with it.
But now obviously as the year has progressed and things have gotten bigger and more exciting, and now it seems to be the talk of the town and definitely the talk of the locker room between the guys that are up on the top of the leaderboard, kind of jab each other a little bit and talk a little trash, and it's been fun to be a part of it.
MARK STEVENS: I understand that you have developed an app. for your iPhone on how to play certain holes, like the PGA TOUR Pro. How would you play the 17th hole at the Magnolia Course?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Well, the tough part is it depends really where the tee box is. But the back tee there measures close to 500 yards there, I believe, 485, 490 and into the wind there, it's tough to get distance, too, and I'm sure they'll move it up. It's a driver, 8 or 9-iron or so, but it's a hole where you gotta step up and hit the fairway and do your best to knock it on the green and give yourself a look at birdie. It's a good hole.
MARK STEVENS: If I could remind everybody to please just wait for the microphone.

Q. Kevin, just basically what's the idea of picking up a million dollar check do to you?
KEVIN STREELMAN: You know, for me -- and I've told some people this before, just four or five years ago I didn't have much at all. I was a struggling Mini Tour golfer, who was abandoned by some sponsors a week after Monday qualifying for a Tour event down in San Diego.
So to me it's a dream come true. It really has been a culmination of my American dream just getting to the PGA TOUR. So this is obviously icing on the cake and would be a huge blessing. We could help out a lot of people and family members, and it would be a huge blessing.

Q. Tell us just a little bit about that, I guess the five years previous to getting on Tour. When you say it was a struggle, just can you tell us some of the stories there, an example or two?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Basically -- I got plenty of them, but my first shot out of school was followed by one. There I missed the final stage of Q-School by one shot and the five years after that was everything from the Hooters Tour, Gateway Tour, U.S. Pro Golfers Tour, any state Tour I could get into just to try and play for a couple hundred bucks, and I've never forgotten those days.
But I had a group approach me from Chicago that said we will sponsor you. This was in '04. So we'll sponsor you, go out on the West Coast try and Monday qualify and see if things get going. So I miss at Phoenix, pick up a guy's card I was sitting having a beer with, just random comments, successfully Monday qualified for Pebble, and played an event, raced down to San Diego to try for Torrey, just missed there. And I called this group back in Chicago that had given me like 15 hundred bucks to get started and they don't pick up the phone. And to this day I have not heard a word from them. And they promised me a bunch of money for that year to get through and totally left me stranded in California.
At that point I had about $400 in my bank account and was pretty much ready to stop playing, and that guy's card I pulled out that I still had from Phoenix had a place in LA, and I called him and went and stayed with him down in Coto de Caza just in South Orange County there, and I kind of got my feet under me. And some of his friends invested in me and got going.
And I remember driving across the country to Arkansas from there for a Hooters event because I had to Monday qualify for and I didn't have any status on the Tour, and I finished second. And I remember making I think it was $11,000, and it was like the world to me because I had nothing and I could pay those guys back immediately for what they had given me.
And to me, I was never a silver spoon kid. I was never a country club member anywhere. So it's been a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication.

Q. (No microphone).
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. After it's all over.

Q. Have you seen Van Pelt?
KEVIN STREELMAN: No, I haven't seen him yet. I just got here this morning and raced around the Palm Course and have not talked to him yet. Probably won't say too much. (Laughs).

Q. Winner take all.

Q. When did you -- you said you kind of grew an interest into the Kodak Challenge at the beginning of the year. But did you like keep up with your standings? Did you realize you were doing well in it and follow it all along or one day you went, holy cow?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I made an eagle at the John Deere in the second week in July. And that one -- that's when I think it jumped me up to tied for the lead or one back. And then I birdied the next week in Milwaukee as well, and ever since then I've been either tied for the lead or had the lead on my own.
So now it's been since the third week in July I've been up there. And on the leaderboard on Tour they've got those standings as well, and then our greens sheets, which is like our information sheets, they've got the standings there. So if you're at the Top 10, it's hard to not have an idea of where you stand.
Plus with all your friends calling and family members calling. I think my wife had even started a -- they have an updated Kodak scorecard and she'd almost done that on her own before the TOUR came up with theirs. She was checking on how I was doing.
So it's been a fun process, and I think really kind of an out-of-the-box different idea that's just been really great marketing on Kodak's part. They've done a great job with that, and for them to commit six years to the Tour, it's been something we all appreciate. It means a lot to us as a player and an organization.

Q. When you get to 17, you're going to hopefully play it three times in the next six days, are you going to go, wait a minute, where am I in the round or this is the hole I gotta play right now? Is there a mindset change there that you gotta think about?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I would be lying if I said there wasn't a little bit of a change. You know, we put pressure on ourselves. That all comes from ourselves internally. That's not something that other people give to us. So whether it's trying to get through Q-School or trying to finish a tournament or playing your buddies for five bucks, it's the same self-induced pressure.
So I think I've handled it pretty well thus far, and I'll just -- I mean my -- the way I approach any difficult golf shot, whether it's trying to win the 72nd hole for a tournament or trying to birdie a Kodak hole, I step up and try and make a great golf swing and let all the other stuff take care of itself.
I can't control where the ball goes or whether the putt lips out, but I can control my mental outlook going into the shot. So I try and make a great target and see where it goes. I really want to make a birdie on my own this week and just close it out. That's my own goal.

Q. I guess the scenario I was thinking, all right. You're tied for the lead in the golf tournament, Sunday afternoon. You come to the 17th hole and you're tied for the lead in the Kodak Challenge. Could I fight it a little more or do I need to hit the fairway and make par?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Well, the two-year exemption would take a little priority. It is a nice feeling, coming down the stretch with the Kodak at least, that I can't fall backwards. I can make big number twice or -- that's a unique feeling, I'd say, coming down the stretch of a tournament, not knowing you could take par or worse on 18. So...

Q. To change subjects just a little bit, am I correct two years ago when you got your card at Qualifying School, you went through the whole three rounds process. How big of a grind was that?
KEVIN STREELMAN: It was -- I tell people that, you know, we have our times where I think things are meant to happen and fall in line for each of us, and for me even at the first stage I birdied four of my last five holes to make it on the number, or else none of this would have ever happened.
So I know it was just kind of my time to get through that first stage, and I tell people also that my second stage that year was they had a course in Phoenix called Southern Dunes, which was a course that I really love and I'd won a Gateway Tour event at that summer. So I felt very comfortable. For a second stage that's an ideal situation to go to a place where you've had previous success at.
But your priority is based on how you finish the first stage. So if you win first stage, you definitely get first priority for second stage. But if you finish last guy through, which I did, you never get your first priority. You usually get your fourth, fifth or sixth priority. And I called the PGA TOUR, I didn't get my spot, and they tell me at Phoenix and I was just like, how is it possible. And then I end up winning Second Stage and got through the final, got my Tour card at finals. So but if I hadn't birdied those last five or maybe if I'd gotten sent somewhere where I was a little less comfortable, who knows what would have happened?

Q. You were talking about the challenges of the Kodak Challenge going on and the pressure there. What is the challenge of some of the other guys competing for PGA TOUR cards next year do to change this tournament for you, just the way they play?
KEVIN STREELMAN: The way they play?

Q. How does that impact on the way they play?
KEVIN STREELMAN: You can definitely make the practice rounds right now. You know, it's just making sure you dot all your I's and cross all your Ts and just do your best to prepare as well as you can.
You gotta at least walk away saying I gave it my all. That's kind of how I approach this Kodak thing. I can't really control if someone else holes out on me or someone else does some incredible things. All I can control is my preparation and get ready for the shot.

Q. Are you seeing guys over-swinging or see them in the clubhouse a little anxious?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I just got here this morning so I haven't spent too much time around. It is one of those weeks where you can tell the guys that are having fun with their families and then the other guys that are here to work.
And you just kind of hope at the beginning of the year that you happen to be one of those guys having fun with your families. But I mean you gotta do what you gotta do. Someone's going to leave here with a two-year exemption on Tour. So great opportunity as well.

Q. Kevin, looking ahead a few weeks, the grooves rule is going to go into effect here fairly soon and I'm wondering whether you've gotten new equipment, whether you've battle tested it and debugged it and what's in the bag now and what effect you think rolling back that technology will have next year.
KEVIN STREELMAN: I have messed around with it. I got them at the beginning of the Fall Series. I got my Cleveland set for next year, which is the same head pretty much just with the new groove.
And out of the fairway you really don't see a big difference. And out of a really bad lie, I mean a bad lie is a bad lie, you don't see much of a difference as well, but on those medium kind of wispy rough lies, you get a big flyer, and it'll make us alter our shot selection, absolutely.

Q. (No microphone).
KEVIN STREELMAN: I don't know about that. I probably won't -- at least at the beginning of the year. I like to hit driver. I think that's one of my best clubs in my personal bag, so I will stick with hitting that as much as possible.
But we'll see. You'd have to take less club and maybe bounce it up and play to the fat side of the holes, tucked pin positions. You gotta play the fat side of the greens. And I think it'll have a definite impact.
And then chipping and bunker shots will have probably the biggest impact, and the wedges. You can't quite hit them with as much grab, the low checkers, those are probably gone to a degree. And you'll just have to add a softer higher shot to the arsenal and just make due with what it is.

Q. Changing balls at all to go to a softer cover? There's been some thinking that that might be an option to add more spin which, of course, we've been trying to eliminate, I guess within certain tolerances.
KEVIN STREELMAN: I had planned on doing that, and I sat down and talked with a golf ball guru guy, and he said what we're finding is if this is the difference on a -- you know, if this is the difference on the amount of spin from last year to this year, a super soft ball will maybe do that.
So it's just the grooves are taking so much spin off the golf ball that regardless of whether it's a marsh or whatever, you still aren't going to be able to get as much spin as we could this year.
So it is what it is. It'll be the same for everybody, obviously. So I think to that degree, it'll be interesting.
In my personal opinion, the problem, supposed problem that the USGA saw was that the ball was going too far and the drivers were too hot. So I didn't understand why the grooves and irons are different. So if you have a problem here, they're fixing something over here.

Q. In theory it's to make you think twice about playing -- dumping chase golf off the tee where you just blow it down there as far as you can, go find it and then knock a wedge to within eight feet with U grooves. They want you to play out of the fairway.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. I think they should just have a bucket of balls on the first tee and just grab them and we all play the same ones, but it is what it is. We'll get used to it and we'll adapt, and it'll be fine.

Q. Are you actually playing conforming clubs right now?
KEVIN STREELMAN: No. I have them ready to go next week, but I've decided to just keep everything the same.
These fall events are obviously great opportunities to try and win tournaments, and you want to give yourself every advantage just as it was before the FedExCup now. So I've kept everything the same.

Q. How many nonconforming clubs do you have in the bag right now?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Right now it would be the wedges and the irons.

Q. So 6-iron, I think it is, and 4-iron down. I think they're only going to require the U grooves though on like 6-iron, loft and higher. It's a certain loft.
KEVIN STREELMAN: 20 something.

Q. Yeah.

Q. Thanks.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. My pleasure.

Q. Can you talk about how changing the groove then affects skill? Does it require more skill around the greens, and then how so?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I wouldn't say more or less skill, but I'd say just developing a different type of shot, a different type of go-to comfort shot.
You know, people with good short games, regardless, will be able to adapt. And you spend a week with these things, you spend six hours a day practicing, which a lot of us do, you know, after you spend 30 hours with these things, you'll have a good idea of what you can and can't do with it.

Q. It won't separate the skilled short game players any more than it already has, or will it?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Good question. I guess we'll see. I think because it's the same for everybody, like everyone will just move backwards a little bit or forwards a little, but you'll still have that differentiation.
It won't be necessarily better or worse for players. I think for some people, you know, if you're a high-spin, short-game artist, yes, it'll probably make it more difficult for you. If you're a type of short game player that hits higher, softer shots, you might not notice any difference at all, who doesn't play with a lot of spin.
I personally don't play with a ton of spin, so to me, I'll notice a difference, but maybe not to the degree as some guys that love that really low, you know, that one shot that just dies on the green. Like I don't hit that shot a ton, so to guys that will, that'll probably take that out of their arsenal.
But I think there's so much talent out here and there's so much touch and feel, guys will adapt. I don't think we'll see a huge difference.

Q. I wonder if you could just recap the general feelings players have towards Kodak Challenge. Is it the best attitude to take is just play your round and let it fall into place however it may or you actually get focused leading up to the hole and really think about it? What do you think most players are doing and how do you approach it?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I really just try and do it like any other golf hole. I'm trying my best on all 18 and all 72 of them out there, and obviously we have mistakes and we have great breaks and bad breaks, but I just want to step in and pick a great target and try and make a smooth swing. That's all I'm going to try and do, and if it works out well, great. If not, I blow those holes out and I lose in a playoff, hey, it wasn't meant to be. I'm not going to cry myself to sleep or anything about it.
I know I'm very fortunate to be out here and I've got a great family. It's not all about money to me.

Q. (No microphone).
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. I mean for me, like I know how I approach a golf shot and tend to have the best success. Does it work every time, of course not. But in general, I think I have the best success doing it a certain way.
So for me that's what I try and do. And I don't look at that hole any different than I do any other. Now do those jitters and things come into the back of your mind, of course they do. It would for anybody. But for me to do my best I just need to step up and try my best.

Q. Kevin, I know you skipped the Nationwide part of the developmental chain, but you know, obviously the cute story line this week is the top 125. It seems like every year the guys in that next category, 126 to 150 hang around, kind of hang around, hang around, they play their way into tournaments. I'm wondering, would it be more interesting if there was a little more turnover? It's supposed to be meritocracy, but in some ways what you did on your resume three, four or five years ago could still get your foot in the door, and seems like some young guys have a harder time moving up through the pipeline because they're sort of blocked. They talk about the model for the European soccer where they demote the worst teams and promote from the second division every year in large chunks and whether that might freshen the blood. Obviously you'd lose some Marquis guys that way. Half dozen one, cliche.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Sure. I think I could see both sides of that story pretty easily.
You look at guys on the bubble right now, David Duval, Rich Beem, I mean great guys, great golfers and they've done great things for the game. And the hard part with our sport is obviously you don't get a five-year multi-million dollar contract unless you're top two or three guys in the world.

Q. Yeah. Guys win a major, five-year no-cut deal.
KEVIN STREELMAN: You look at baseball, look at all the other big sports today, they don't have the same level of proving grounds as we do and the consistent checkup each year that we do.
So to that regard, I think giving people an opportunity to maybe -- give people the opportunity to stay around a little more would be more accredited. But you also understand, I was one of those guys a couple years ago just clawing to get up here, so I'm one to try and get fresh blood as well, but from a marketing side of the TOUR, you know, names sell tickets, and they sell TV ads and stuff, so I understand -- I'd have to think about that for a while.
I definitely understand both sides of the coin on that topic, but I think they've done a pretty good job, and history has shown that guys that are 126 to 150 have won PGA TOUR events the next year. There's no doubt about that.
You look at Ryan Palmer last year I think was in that boat, and we always talk about the 125 number being so important, but that 150 number is really important because you finish 149 you still can get 15 to 20 starts on the PGA TOUR. People have turned that -- Jason Day this year has turned that into 1.3 million dollars. So that's to me a number where all of a sudden you don't get started on the PGA TOUR, that's kind of --

Q. The number where you're playing the next week?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. That's the big one.

Q. (No microphone).
KEVIN STREELMAN: You know, I didn't realize how some of the Q-School guys weren't getting into that many events this year. And that kind of would be the, I'd say the only tough part of like things like the Kodak Challenge this year, guys who probably wouldn't have been playing this week are now signing up to play for these opportunities.
And in the past the Fall Series has been an opportunity for guys 126 to 150 and new guys to earn their marks, earn their money and hold on. But on the other side of that coin is the fact that we're making these fields that much stronger, which is great for TV; it's great for the fans. It's great for the strength of that event.
So depends what the purpose of the event is. Do you want to have the strongest field possible or do you want to have an opportunity for guys trying to keep their card to keep their card?

Q. (No microphone).
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah. It's definitely a tough -- and I was in that boat my first year out when I got my -- I was right in the middle of that Q-School/Nationwide group, and the obvious answer that everyone always gives is you gotta play better, and great play takes care of a lot of problems.
So it's -- like I said, I've been in that situation, and it stinks waiting around. Like the week I played with Tiger, I was the last alternate to get in. So that's a whole another stressor that you're waiting all week just to see if you're getting in an event, let alone the golf course and where you're staying and stuff like that, but to actually know whether you're in the field can really pull at you, let alone making the cut.
So I've been there, and it's difficult. But it's part of our profession. Play good, you don't have to deal with it.
MARK STEVENS: Kevin, thank you for joining us today, and good luck in the Children's Miracle Network Classic and the Kodak Challenge.

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