Slocum becomes surprise winner at Barclays|Wins by one stroke

Published 3:04 pm Monday, August 31, 2009

AP Sports Writer

Heath Slocum becomes surprise winner at Barclays
AP Sports Writer
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The little guy from the sticks beat Tiger Woods and a cast of big stars in perhaps the most urban setting in PGA Tour history.
Heath Slocum, the 5-foot-7, 150-pound grinder who went to high school with country-as-they-come Boo Weekley in the Florida Panhandle town of Milton, won The Barclays on Sunday at lengthy Liberty National—a couple of par 5s from the Statue of Liberty.
With the Manhattan skyline looming in the background on a clear, breezy day, Slocum made a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a one-stroke victory over Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and playing partner Steve Stricker.
“It was an incredible day, incredible experience,” Slocum said. “I was just kind of lucky to come out on top. A lot of good players. At the end of the day, that putt on the last was magical. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”
A week ago, the short-hitting Slocum wasn’t even sure he would make it to the FedEx Cup opener. Having missed the cut in Greensboro, N.C., he had to wait until the tournament was over to learn that by the slimmest of margins—two points—he had earned the second-to-last spot among the 125 qualifiers.
“My fate was not in my own hands,” Slocum said.
It was on the 18th green at long, hard Liberty National.
On the same green where Woods stunned the crowd by missing from 7 feet, Slocum knocked in the 20-footer, then watched Stricker miss his 10-foot par try.
Slocum closed with a 4-under 67 to win for the third time in his career, and first time in four years. The victory, worth $1.35 million, moved him to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings, giving him a shot at the $10 million prize next month in Atlanta.
“I’m going to use this experience hopefully for the rest of my life, knowing that I can come down the stretch and play, if you want, with the big boys,” Slocum said.
Slocum holed a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 2, the toughest par 3 at Liberty National, then surged into a share of the lead by holing out from 157 yards with a 7-iron for eagle on the par-4 fifth.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew I just flushed it,” he said. “It was going right to the pin. I saw it hit. I didn’t see anything else. I didn’t see it go in. The crowd went crazy. I didn’t know if it was really close or if it had gone in.”
Stricker had a good look at the unlikely eagle that Slocum didn’t see go in — and broadcaster CBS missed completely while focusing on Woods a hole ahead.
“He hit it just past the hole,” Stricker said. “It jumped right back in. Just like a little gopher going for his hole, it just jumped right in.”
Woods, playing his first tournament since losing a two-shot lead to unheralded Y.E. Yang in the PGA Championship, struggled again with his putter, never really trusting himself on the small, undulating greens.
Woods rimmed out an early 3-foot par putt and twice missed from inside 10 feet on par 5s. After a 6-iron from 189 yards to 7 feet on 18 gave him a chance to tie for the lead, Woods’ birdie putt slid by on the left.
“It happens,” said Woods, who shot a 67. “Not too many golf courses that you misread putts that badly. This golf course is one.”
Els closed with a bogey-free 66, Harrington had a 67, and Stricker shot a 69.
Tied for the lead at 9 under, Slocum and Stricker drove into fairway bunkers on 18.
Stricker caught the lip of the bunker, which left him short of the green, and hit wedge to 10 feet. Slocum also came up short, leaving 20 feet from the top of a ridge.
Slocum raised both arms in the air when his par putt broke gently back to the left and disappeared into the cup. Stricker’s putt to force a playoff caught the left lip.
“Hats off to Heath,” Stricker said. “He made a great putt on that last hole. It came down to a couple of putts to decide it all.”
Slocum, who came into The Barclays at No. 197 in the world ranking, finished at 9-under 275 for the biggest win of his career. His other two victories were opposite-field events in Arizona and Mississippi, when the best players in the world were competing elsewhere. He faced an All-Star cast this time.
“Heath is a very steady player,” Stricker said. “He’s a very good player. I don’t think we should be surprised that he won.”
The top 100 players in the FedEx Cup standings qualified for the Deutsche Bank Championship next weekend outside Boston. Slocum, Fredrik Jacobson, Troy Matteson and Richard S. Johnson moved into the top 100, bumping K.J. Choi, Ben Curtis, George McNeill and Matt Bettencourt out of the playoffs.
After the Deutsche Bank, the playoff field will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship and to 30 for the Tour Championship.
Before heading to Boston, Slocum and pregnant wife Victoria planned to stay an extra day to do some sightseeing in Manhattan with infant daughter Stella.
“I have a feeling that no one is going to know who I am,” Slocum said.
His peers sure do.
“He’s very quiet. Very quiet,” Woods said. “Pretty unassuming. Just kind of goes about his business. He’s a very straight hitter of the golf ball. Doesn’t have a lot of power, but hits the ball very straight.”