Hours before the last players walked off the course, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Streelman staged an unofficial, friendly match of their own. Paired together in the final round of the Memorial Tournament, they had a little competition within the bigger competition, fueling the clinic both players put on at Muirfield Village (well, aside from the disaster on 18 for Phil).
Streels kicked off the day with a birdie on the first hole, while Phil posted a par. Game on. “A little chirping on the first hole (got things started),” said Streels.
Naturally, Phil responded with a birdie on the second hole.
Did it help them play better?
“I think it did,” said Streels, who shot a six-under 66 to surge up the leaderboard and secure a(nother) sneaky top-ten finish. “You just kind of kept after it and had a good time.”
Both players are members at Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, Arizona, where surely they’ve had less “friendly” matches.
“I think there was a little pride involved to be the low player from Whisper Rock over the last 18 holes,” said Mike Christenson, Streelman’s caddie, who is also his good friend and former teammate at Duke. “They were kind of feeding off each other out there. There was a little rivalry.”
And there was definitely some banter exchanged. When one of them rolled in a birdie, he’d stare at the other. All in good fun, of course.
“Phil loves to dish it, but he can also take it really well, which makes it kind of fun,” said Streelman. “He made a huge putt on 17 and I had him right where I wanted because I hit a good shot into there. He made a long putt and he just looked up and winked at me.
“We were close in our own little stroke-play game.”
After Phil made eagle on No. 15, while Streels settled with a birdie, they were tied at six-under. But going into the 18th, Phil had a one-shot advantage on Streels.
Mickelson’s drive found the fairway bunker. From there, he pushed his approach to the sidehill left of the green, where he had a terrible lie. His first chip flew the green and ended up in the back right bunker. His shot out looked good for a second until it caught the slope and rolled off the green into the rough. He got up-and-down for double. Ouch.
“I played well today,” said Phil to a group of reporters after he posted a seven-under 65 five-under 67. “I had fun. Kevin and I both had a good time today and we both were making some birdies, so it was a fun day.”
So, what did Streelman win (other than his share of the purse)? “Pride,” he said, smiling.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)