Robert Streb admits even he was a little bit surprised by his 6-under 66 in the opening round of the South Georgia Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Streb, a 2009 Kansas State graduate, holed a handful of birdie putts from 20 feet and beyond en route to the first-round lead at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club.
“I played pretty darned good today. It was the best ball-striking and putting combination I’ve had,” said Streb, who hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. “I’ve been either hitting it good or putting it good. One or the other, but I kind of had it all going today for the most part.”
Though still early in his rookie season on the Nationwide Tour, Streb’s all-around effort produced his lowest score to date and also gave him sole possession of the first-day lead.
Brian Stuard, Luke List and Monday qualifier Sihwan Kim share second place at 5-under 67. Kim the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, was 5 under through 11 holes but stumbled with a bogey at No. 17 before recovering with a birdie at 18 to get back to minus-5.
Texan Anthony Rodriguez, Diego Velasquez of Colombia and Canada’s Adam Hadwin are another shot back at 68.
Nine players, including Sam Saunders, Georgia’s Richard Scott and Alex Aragon, winner of the TPC Stonebrae Championship two weeks ago, are knotted at 69.
Streb, 25, made his move thanks to his putting. He ran off five birdies in his first seven holes and canned birdie putts of 20, 35, 30 and 20 feet in the process.
“Every once in a while, my putter gets hot. It’s not a normal thing by any stretch,” said Streb, who added a 35-footer late in the day to reach 6 under. “I had a couple of three-putts but other than that I made just about everything I looked at.”
And when Streb took a look at the electronic leaderboards, which he has a tendency to do, he saw his name in some unfamiliar territory.
“I’d like not to worry about it, but it’s obviously one of those things you do worry about because you want to be leading,” said Streb, whose previous best in five starts this year is a tie for 17th at the Chile Classic. “I always look out of curiosity. I try not to but I want to know. I was surprised by it but it was pretty nice.”
Two-time U.S. Open champ Lee Janzen makes first Nationwide Tour start since 1990
Eight-time PGA Tour winner Lee Janzen rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 2-over 74 late Thursday afternoon. Janzen has only made two previous starts on the Nationwide Tour and both of those came in 1990.
“The first nine holes I hit a lot of good shots and like golf can be, sometimes you get a little misfortune,” he said. “I had two bunker shots that I couldn’t aim anywhere near the pin or the green, which is unfortunate. I was at a stage where I was just trying to get to where I could bogey the hole.”
Janzen, a veteran of 600 career starts on the PGA Tour, recovered nicely on the back but is tied for 87th after the opening 18. He has seven starts on the PGA Tour this year, and five cuts made, including a tie for 29th at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina two weeks ago.
“Playing out of the Past Champions category and looking at my schedule, my next start would be Memphis. That’s six weeks off and that’s a long time to have off,” said Janzen, 47. “I have full-exempt status on the Nationwide and that’s another avenue to get back on Tour, which is my main goal, to get back in the top 125. I should be aiming higher than that but first things first.”
Janzen says he may opt to play more on the Nationwide Tour this year in an effort to regain his status, but will hold off making any decisions until it’s absolutely necessary. He could wind playing at next week’s Stadion Classic at UGA in Athens, if he doesn’t successfully qualify on Monday for the PGA Tour event in Charlotte, N.C.
“I came here feeling my game was in great shape. It would be great to play well this week and next week and then have that decision, whether I choose to do it or not,” he said. “No matter where I play, I need to play well, period.”
Janzen is a two-time winner of the U.S. Open. His second title came in 1998 in San Francisco’s Olympic Club, the site of this year’s championship. Janzen has yet to qualify for this year’s tournament.
“I would love to go back,” he said. “To play any U.S. Open venue would be exciting but to be able to go back to Olympic, knowing I have great memories there, it would be special but I also feel that I can play well on that course.”
The last time Janzen played in Valdosta was in 1986 at the NCAA Division II Regional tournament with his team from Florida Southern. The Mocs finished first at Valdosta Country Club and advanced to the NCAA Championship, where Janzen won the individual title.
--Australia’s Won Joon Lee withdrew during the round due to illness.
--Past champions Ewan Porter (77), Bryan DeCorso (70) and John Kimbell (73) are in the field this week. Kimbell won the inaugural event in 2007, DeCorso won in 2008 and Porter won in 2010.
--Five of the six tournament winners in 2012 are entered this week. Only Panama Claro Championship winner Edward Loar is missing from Valdosta. Loar is competing at this week’s PGA Tour stop, the Zurich Classic.
-Robert Streb’s four consecutive birdies tied the tournament record for the most birdies in a row. Hunter Haas had four straight (Nos. 10-13) in the second round in 2007.
--Andrew Svoboda made 18 pars for a 72. Svoboda hit 10 of 18 greens in regulation and two-putted each of those. He managed to get up-and-down on the eight holes where he missed the green. Svoboda has been runner-up twice in his six starts this year and comes into the week No. 3 on the money list.
--Steve LeBrun opened his round with three straight 6s on his scorecard. He bogeyed the fourth hole and was 6 over par at that point. He turned the front in 6-over 42 but rallied with a 4-under 32 on the back for a total of 74.
The Nationwide Tour will move to Athens next week for the Stadion Classic at UGA. The tournament will be held at the University of Georgia Golf Course April 30-May 6.