Kevin Streelman: All of a sudden, the feel hits it…

…or, fooling around with a metronome.

Two years ago, Kevin Streelman won this very tournament, then the Tampa Bay Championship, the placeholder name until they were able to secure Valspar as the tournament sponsor. It was his first win and the culmination of a pretty amazing odyssey of cleaning clubs at a resort, caddie gigs at Whisper Rock and beating two cars to death on the mini-tours, “Kevin Streelman: Paid His Dues in Blood, Sweat and Years. All of this on his way to his dream of making it to the PGA Tour.

This week, after 36 holes, he’s tucked into T2 with four other guys (Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Ryan Moore and Derick Ernst) one stroke behind the leader Brendon de Jonge who is at 5-under. The Copperhead course at the Innisbrook resort has been a stiff test in blustery winds.

Streelman has always been a good ball striker, but today it was his putting that held his round together. And that came up in an interesting way: 

I remembered the last time I won here, I watched the video a couple weeks ago, I had two weeks at home and I watched the video from the last round.

I remember the metronome I used the week prior and was able to get 72 beats per minute.  The last few days I got my iPhone app and got the metronome.  Putting to that.  Kind of get my rhythm and just start rolling the ball a lot better.

It was the real life version of that old complement we hear, so and so has forgotten more about golf than I know. In this instance, Streelman’s metronome work had faded from memory until the videos reminded him. He keeps videos of his old rounds for just that reason:

I try and keep — I definitely have all the good rounds, the final rounds, watched the last round at Travelers [which he won the following year] two times and kind of the same deal putting there.  I just kind of got out of myself a little bit and trusted the reads and my instincts and this week has just really been about quick, decisive, efficient reads and trying to stick to the metronome beat I’ve been working.  It’s beautiful now.

There was one putt in the video in particular that caught his eye:

I saw a putt that just had this beautiful rhythm to it.  I’ve been working — sometimes I think we get so technical, the putting we can kind of get all out of that feel aspect.

Focusing on keeping my eyes still and kind of rock.  All of a sudden the feel hits it.  It’s the artistic side, it’s an important part of putting.  It’s kind of coming back to me.

“All of a sudden, the feel hits it.” That just had a lot of resonance for me because, aside from always wanting an accelerating stroke through the ball, I’m not terribly technical. I’m a feel putter.

So I got curious about this metronome thing. 72 beats just sounded way quicker than my stroke. So I downloaded a metronome from the Google Play Store, Mobile Metronome, and just started playing around with it and thinking about it…for a couple of hours.

I finally got around to this setup:

  • A tempo of 50 beats per minute
  • A time signature of 3 notes per measure in quarter notes
  • The Beat Subdivision of a quarter note
  • With an accent on the first beat
  • The default sound was a wooden clave which I liked because it had a crisp sound
  • Over the ball, I cued the stroke on the accent beat, began the stroke on the second beat and stroked through the ball on the third.
  • I was rolling eight balls in my living room which allowed me to stay in rhythm and kind of get the hang of it quicker.

And here’s what I discovered for my stroke:

  • As I said, 72 beats is much faster than my normal tempo and made me feel rushed. Trying to get back to the ball on cadence, I found it hard to control my speed.
  • I gradually rolled the beat to 50 where I felt unrushed.
  • As Streelman discovered, because it was all about tempo, I didn’t have any technical thoughts. It was all feel.

What remains for me now is to compare the rigidity of the metronome to my natural rhythm which wells up in the middle of my chest until I see the line…and the face on the line…and then the stroke just feels like it starts itself. Beginning the stroke is like a languid pressure relief valve. I might try to recreate that languid feel by bumping the time signature up to 4 notes so that with each beat it feels more like, on your mark, get set, stroke, let it go.

Whether I keep fooling around with it remains to be seen, but it was an interesting exercise and helped to make Streelman’s comments more real.

Thought you might like to know.

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