In a final hour of surprises, Heath Slocum delivered the biggest one Sunday at The Barclays.
One week after Slocum wondered if he would even make it to the PGA Tour Playoffs, he finished off a compelling afternoon at Liberty National by making a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a one-shot victory over Tiger Woods and a cast of stars.
Woods was one shot behind when he fired a 6-iron from 189 yards into 7 feet on the final hole, adding to his collection of clutch shots. Typical of his week, however, Woods missed the putt and shot 67, then had to wait to see if there would be a playoff.
Slocum and Steve Stricker, tied for the lead, both hit into fairway bunkers and couldn’t reach the green. Slocum raised both arms in the air when his par putt broke gently back to the left and disappeared into the cup.
Stricker had a 10-foot par putt to force a playoff, and cringed when it caught the left lip. He closed with a 69.
Ernie Els (66) and Padraig Harrington (67) also finished one shot behind Slocum. Els had his clubs loaded into the trunk of his car when he heard the cheers for Woods’ approach to the 18th green.
Then came a groan when Woods missed, followed by news that Slocum and Stricker were in trouble off the tee. Before long, Els was on the driving range warming up for a possible five-way playoff that never happened when Slocum made the biggest putt of his career.
In the third year of these playoffs, the FedEx Cup finally has a winner that resembles a real underdog.
He qualified for these playoffs with two points to spare — he was No. 124 out of 125 players who advance to this postseason bonanza. His victory moves him to No. 3 in the standings, assuring him a spot in the Tour Championship and a shot at the $10 million prize.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Slocum said. “I was sweating it out last week. I didn’t even know if I’d be here. I came in here with the attitude that I had nothing to lose.”
He turned into a huge winner.
Slocum, who came into The Barclays at No. 197 in the world ranking, finished at 9-under 275 and earned $1.35 million for his third career PGA Tour victory, and first in four years. His other two victories were opposite-field events, when the best players in the world were competing elsewhere.
He faced an All-Star cast across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and Slocum shined.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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