Robert Streb’s goal is to kill them softly on the PGA Tour.
To keep working his game, steadily and without much fanfare. Streb walks and talks quietly while players like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy carry big sticks.
“I feel like I’ve gotten on a good little run,” Streb said as he awaits next week’s BMW Championship in Chicago, the third leg of the FedExCup. “I’ve been scoring well, I guess.”
Streb, a 2009 Kansas State graduate, ranks 12th in FedExCup points, 13th in money (more than $3.7 million) and is the 33rd-ranked player in the world based on a 2015 season that has included one win, nine top 10s and 14 top 25s.
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“I’ve kind of gotten to another level,” Streb said. “I’ve got a good handle on my game and on how to fix things. Everything has been improving and going well this year. I haven’t had too many struggles.”
As a golfer, of course, Streb likely was knocking on wood when he made that last comment. Even the best players know things can go badly in a hurry.
Streb, though, doesn’t seem like he’ll be as susceptible to golf’s ups and downs.
“Robert has a really good personality for playing on the PGA Tour,” former K-State golf coach Tim Norris said. “We had other players here who were just as talented but the chemistry has got to be right. He’s got the chemistry.”
Norris, who moved into K-State’s administration in 2014, said the chemistry starts with a supportive wife, Maggie, whom Streb met while they were students at Kansas State.
“She’s really well-grounded and I think that’s part of what has allowed Robert to improve the way he has,” Norris said. ‘You see players come through and they are never able to build those blocks and keep moving forward. But the way Robert approaches the game, and his personality, allows him to keep building on what he’s done.”
Gradual, steady improvement is Streb’s specialty.
It happened as a young player growing up in Oklahoma. It happened as a high school player in Edmond. It happened at Kansas State and it’s happening professionally. Not yet 29, Streb has shown the same steady rise professionally.
Just look at his performance in golf’s majors this season: He failed to make the cut at the Masters in April, finished in a tie for 42nd at the U.S. Open in June, tied for 18th in the British Open in July and tied for 10th in the PGA Championship in August.
He moved from 126h in the FedExCup standings in 2013 to 71st last season to 12th this year.
One of Streb’s dreams was to some day get a chance to play Augusta National. It didn’t go the way he had dreamed.
He shot 80-76 and was on his way home at 12-over par.
“I think I might have done it before the Masters,” Streb said. “I was probably trying too hard to be prepared and to understand all the little nuances of the course instead of making sure I was rested and ready to go.”
The Masters blowup came during a stretch of sub-par golf for Streb, when he missed five cuts in a span of eight tournaments.
“Our daughter (Catherine) was only eight weeks old when I played the Masters,” he said. “I suppose becoming a father can be distracting, but it’s such a great thing. It’s always nice to see a smile on your kid’s face.”
After missing the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Streb found his rhythm. He finished in a tie for 30th at the Players Championship, then tied for fourth at the Wells Fargo. in mid-May. He’s on a streak of making the cut in 12 straight tournaments, although back-to-back 39th-place finishes at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship haven’t thrilled him.
“I didn’t putt great last week, but I think I’ve got it sorted out,” said Streb, who lives in Kansas City and remains a devout K-State fan. “I’m taking this week off to get some stuff in order around the house and to try and fix some things with my game that haven’t been so great the last two weeks.”
Streb never won a Big 12 championship and wasn’t always the most talented player on the Wildcats. But, Norris said, he was the most determined.
“Always self-motivated and he knew how to practice,” Norris said. “He always liked to play a lot, sometimes he would play nine or 18 holes before practice. But the biggest thing I see in Robert’s game is that he has owned his swing.”
Some players grow impatient after struggling. Swing coaches are hired and fired with regularity on the PGA Tour. Guys switch clubs on a whim.
“He has the same swing he had when he was here at K-State as a freshman,” Norris said. “He hasn’t changed his grip, even. Everything looks about the same.”
It’s not easy for a golfer competing week in and week out against the best players in the world to convince himself to stay the course. But Streb does.
“You never really know when your game is going to come and go,” he said. “I’m just hoping I can keep improving and stay in the major tournaments.”
Streb was under consideration as a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup to be played in Korea in a month. Those spots eventually went to Phil Mickelson and Bill Haas, son of U.S. captain Jay Haas.
“I was pretty far down the list to earn a spot,” Streb said. “Maybe now I can work hard and get on the Ryder Cup team next year.”
That’s Streb. Undeterred. Always moving forward even if people don’t notice. And becoming a force on the PGA Tour.