Kevin Streelman, Larry Fitzgerald start strong at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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Kevin Streelman, Larry Fitzgerald start strong at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

PGA Tour

Kevin Streelman, Larry Fitzgerald start strong at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – When Kevin Streelman isn’t competing on the PGA Tour and Larry Fitzgerald isn’t catching touchdown passes for the Arizona Cardinals, the two occasionally meet up at Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, Ariz., where they are both members.

“I love taking his money more than anybody on their off weeks,” Streelman said of Fitzgerald.

This week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, they’re on the same team. And thanks to an opening 7-under 65 by Streelman on Thursday at Spyglass Hill, and a handful of birdies from Fitzgerald, the duo shot 14-under 58 and lead the pro-am portion by three shots.

“I just tried to stay out of his way,” Fitzgerald said of Streelman, who shares the lead in the pro competition with Beau Hossler. Streelman kept a clean card Thursday and capped his round with back-to-back birdies.

“That always makes lunch taste a little better,” Streelman said.

Streelman was especially happy that the foursome, which also included Jerry Kelly and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, played in under five hours. It helped that the group was the first ones off No. 1.

It also added to Streelman’s mood that he and Fitzgerald were nine shots better than Kelly and Rodgers. Streelman, by the way, is from Chicago and a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears, the Packers’ biggest rivals.

“I said Aaron, ‘I respect the heck out of you, but you’ve been beating the crap out of my Bears for 12 years,'” Streelman said. “So we got off to a fun start.”

Streelman is searching for his first win on Tour since 2014. In four seasons since making it to the Tour Championship in 2013, Streelman has finished further down the FedEx Cup standings each season, including 83rd last season.

But so far this season, Streelman hasn’t missed a cut in eight tries and has four top-25 finishes. He is also striking the ball well, ranking 16th in strokes gained: tee-to-green entering the week.

“I’ve been hitting the ball beautifully,” Streelman said. “My stats are really probably the highest they have ever been throughout the game, really except for the putting.”

Streelman has typically been a top-75 putter in recent seasons, but this year the flatstick has been an Achilles heel. He’s losing 0.386 shots on the greens, which ranks him No. 163.

Thanks to some hard work with his instructor Andrew Getson and a trip to the Scotty Cameron studio in San Diego to see Paul Vizanko, Streelman can see some light at the end of that tunnel.

“We have been working relentlessly ever since the start of the season on my putting and finally getting some really good visual, seeing the ball go in, how I want it to go in the hole versus just like thinking left edge, like actually getting into the putt and seeing how you want it to roll in the hole,” Streelman said. “Just a little different mental mindset. Obviously it doesn’t work every day, but it did today and just keep it going on the weekend.”

Said Fitzgerald: “He’s so dedicated and to see it pay off for him on the toughest course out here was fun to watch.”

Larry Fitzgerald and Aaron Rodgers, pictured during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Spyglass Hill on Thursday (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)

Fitzgerald’s game looked good, as well. He is a week removed from playing in the Phoenix Open pro-am, where he “picked up so many times” he couldn’t count. But at Spyglass, Fitzgerald played smart off the tee, hitting mostly irons, and it resulted in a couple of gross birdies and a few net birdies.

“I can’t keep my 3-wood or driver in play,” Fitzgerald said, “so I had to figure out a way to keep the ball in the fairway.”

Streelman is impressed by Fitzgerald’s ability to pick up the game so quickly. Fitzgerald has only been playing for about five years.

“As these guys get older and they start thinking about retirement and stuff, they need something to keep those competitive juices going and talk trash and maybe play for a dollar or something,” Streelman said.

To Fitzgerald, golf is more than that.

“I am definitely consumed by it,” Fitzgerald said. “You can’t master it. You know, Aaron goes 25 for 25 with five touchdowns, that’s a perfect game if you’re looking at the stats. Or Kevin Durant goes out and shoots 20 for 20; that’s a perfect game. Golf, it doesn’t matter. Kev shot 65 today, but it could’ve very easily been a 63. … There’s always something to be left out there and that’s what I love about the game; it’s an imperfect game, it’s about managing your mistakes.”

And on Thursday at Spyglass, Streelman and Fitzgerald managed their mistakes nearly perfectly.

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