Sixteen years later, Sluman earns redemption at Pebble Beach

August 31, 2008
Lauren Deason, PGATOUR.COM Editorial Coordinator

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Jeff Sluman followed in the steps of last year's Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach winner Gil Morgan and got his revenge on Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Inside the Numbers
Sluman's Final Stats
Category Total Rank
Eagles 0 N/A
Birdies 16 T1
Pars 36 T19
Bogeys 2 76
Double Bogeys 0 N/A
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 76.2% T35
Driving Distance 268.8 yds. 22
Greens in Regulation 83.3% 1
Putts per Round 29.0 T29
Putts per GIR 1.689 12
Sand Saves 50.0% T25

The year 1992 could have been a spectacular one for Sluman at Pebble Beach. Instead, he lost in a playoff at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Then, he was runner-up again at the 1992 U.S. Open Championship held at, you guessed it, Pebble Beach.

This year, he wasn't taking any chances. He got off to a stellar start -- "the key to any round here at Pebble is getting off a start like I did (today), to set the whole day up" -- with four birdies in the first eight holes. Sluman didn't relinquish the lead after that, making two more birdies and a lone bogey at No. 17 for a final-round 67.

"I knew I could play the course well on a Sunday while in contention. I did definitely draw on that (from experience in 1992)," Sluman said. "It was a very high, kind of dry sun today so the course got really firm, the greens got firm. It was similar in scope to conditions we saw on the greens (in 1992) but without the 25-30 mph winds."

The win is Sluman's second of the year and marks the first time he's won twice in a season on either the PGA TOUR or Champions Tour. It also moved him into eighth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, which means he'll likely secure a spot in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in his rookie year.

It also reminds him that the Champions Tour is where he wants to be.

"(A win) gives you confidence you can do well on the Champions Tour. With my kind of game, I probably could play very competitively on half a dozen courses on the PGA TOUR. This one, Riviera, Harbour Town, Milwaukee," Sluman, a six-time PGA TOUR winner, said. "All in all, it's much more difficult now. This is the tour that I want to be on, need to be on. Unless I like a lot of frustration watching 150 guys hit it 30, 40 yards by me."

The past few weeks have been up and down for Sluman. He won the Bank of America Championship in June, then finished tied for fourth and tied for ninth in his next two events. It'd been a month of events, though, since he sniffed the top 10, and he was trying to determine the cause.

He figured it might be the flat stick.

"Last month, it was really bad. Bad enough that I put my old Scotty Cameron in the penalty box for a few days this week," he said. "But I went back to Scotty on the weekend."

A well-timed word of advice from Dave Stockton also helped him tame the tricky poa annua greens at Pebble Beach.

"Golf is a strange game. I got a nice putting lesson from Dave Stockton -- if he sits down to tell you about putting, you need to listen because he's as good as there's ever been," Sluman explained.

The misbehaving putter certainly learned its lesson after a brief timeout, as Sluman was 12th for the week in putts after hitting the green in regulation. His putter especially came through in the final round, as Sluman sank one important putt after another.

"Nos. 8-11 were the key to whole day," he explained. "On No. 9, I had a 15-foot, downhill, right-to-left breaking putt and made it for a par save there. I did virtually the same thing on No. 11, the only mistake I really made. I hit it in the right rough, just trying to get it left and short of the green. The putt was a 12-footer, straight downhill and fast.

"I made that and it wasn't elementary from there, but I hit good solid shots and obviously made it a little easier."

Since the tournament pairs the professionals with juniors from The First Tee, Sluman was able to benefit from a little youthful enthusiasm while playing with partner Michael Guardiola. From the start of the week, when he first met the kids, Sluman was inspired by their stories.

"Everybody, from Mr. (Bill) Murray to the other pros, said this is just the best event we play all year. To see young kids and what they've accomplished to get here. Michael had to go to Kansas and get tested on life skills, golf, all those different things. For the 78 kids to get here, they're very special kids. It's nice to see they're the future of golf and, if they don't make it in golf, they'll be special in life," Sluman said.

Sluman was also able to draw inspiration from his good friend Murray, who followed him for most of the day and cheered him on. In fact, Murray tried to start the cheers early on No. 18. But, after Sluman's bogey on the 17th hole, he urged his friend to keep it quiet.

"I had to contain him until I hit it on the green at 18," Sluman said. "I didn't want to have everyone go crazy then have something really silly happen."

You can't blame him, since before this win Sluman knew the bitter taste of losing much better than the sweet taste of victory at Pebble Beach.

But, 16 years after the fact, he finally has his redemption.