The RSM Classic over the weekend was a nice, laid back, pre-Thanksgiving appetizer following the Masters, and there is a lot to unpack from the last few days of golf. Robert Streb getting the win seemed inevitable for most of the week, even if it took a playoff for him to finally cap off the second win of his career.
This victory, though, was a lot different than his first one (also at the RSM Classic). For starters, the field strength this week was nearly double what it was back in 2014 when he defeated Mackenzie Hughes and Brendon de Jonge in a playoff. Streb’s near hole-out on the second playoff hole reminded me of the time Jonathan Byrd made an ace at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to win in a playoff there. Not quite the same because Streb’s didn’t go in, but similar vibes from the win.
Streb is a fine journeyman who has never necessarily been great from tee to green, but his 65-63 start (in which he gained five strokes putting in Round 1) catapulted him into an enviable position, and he closed the deal over Kevin Kisner for win No. 2. That’s no small thing given the bounty of cash, OWGR points and (maybe most importantly) that 2021 Masters invite.
More thoughts on the last week of golf.
Kisner goes to 0-5: It seems improbable that somebody who is described as “gritty” more often than Danny Amendola would be 0-5 in PGA Tour playoffs, but here we are. What seems more improbable, though, is that a top 50 or 40 golfer in the world would have lost five straight times in what amounts to basically a coin flip. His playoff losses have come against Jim Furyk (RBC Heritage), Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia (Players Championship), David Hearn, Danny Lee and Robert Streb (Greenbrier), Jonas Blixt and Cam Smith (Zurich Classic) and Streb again (RSM Classic). Kisner is better than everybody on the list other than Furyk, Fowler and Garcia, and yet he’s still 0-5. Astounding.
Villegas, the favorite: If you weren’t rooting for Villegas — who eventually finished T6 — to win just a few months removed from the death of his 2-year-old daughter then you probably had family ties to Streb or Kisner. Villegas has been playing some terrific golf, which has no doubt been therapeutic for him. His perspective on everything that’s gone on this year earlier in the week was great.
“The support from the golfing world, the non-golfing world has been unbelievable,” Villegas said. “It’s plain and simple, I’ve said it a million times. I can’t change the past and since I can’t change the past, I’ve got to focus on the present. It’s not about forgetting because you never forget your daughter, but it’s about — it’s about being in the moment, being in the now and this is my now. It’s not with her, but … it is with her at the same time, so you’ve just got to stick to the process. I love playing golf, I love doing what I do. The game of golf has been great to me.”
D.J. and Tiger: My favorite pot-stirring question of the week came from my pal Dylan Dethier, who wondered if golf has ever been played at a higher level than Dustin Johnson is currently playing it. Obviously nobody thinks D.J. has had a better career than Tiger, but he’s gaining 3.9 strokes per round on the average PGA Tour player. Xander Schauffele is second at … 2.7. I think there’s definitely a case to be made that the last three months — given how much deeper golf is now — are equivalent to some of the things Tiger did in his absolute prime.
Thanksgiving fun: There is no PGA Tour event this week, but Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley will be teaming up against Peyton Manning and Steph Curry in a Friday afternoon match on TNT at 3 p.m. (we will have more on this match in the days to come). Watching Barkley swing (and talk) alone will be worth the cost (a post-turkey sandwich nap) of tuning in.