Heath Slocum stuns Tiger Woods wins The Barclays

By Doug FergusonAugust 30, 2009, 4:00 pm
The Barclays JERSEY CITY, N.J. ' Heath Slocum might have been the one player no one expected to win The Barclays.
 
He was locked in a tense battle over the final hour Sunday at Liberty National with some of the biggest names in golf ' Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els.
 
Even more incredible is that a week ago, Slocum was not even sure he would make it to the opening event of the PGA Tour Playoffs. Having missed the cut, he had to wait until the tournament was over to learn that by the slimmest of margins ' two points ' he was the No. 124 seed out of the 125 players who qualified.
Tiger Woods at The Barclays
Tiger Woods reacts after missing a putt during the final round of The Barclays at Liberty National. (Getty Images)
My fate was not in my own hands, Slocum said.
 
He had his hands around that putter on the 18th green, however, and delivered the biggest shot of his life.
 
On the same green where Woods stunned the crowd by missing from 7 feet, Slocum knocked in a 20-foot par for a one-shot victory at The Barclays to get this FedEx Cup bonanza off to a compelling start.
 
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 from No. 124 to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings, giving him a shot at the $10 million prize next month in Atlanta.
 
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. Ill remember that for the rest of my life.
 
It was another finish Woods would like to forget.
 
In his first tournament since losing a two-shot lead to unheralded Y.E. Yang in the PGA Championship, the putter again cost Woods a chance to win ' not only the final round, but all week on greens he could never trust.
 
Woods rimmed out a 3-foot par putt early in the round. He twice missed from inside 10 feet on par 5s. And after another clutch shot on the 18th hole, this one a 6-iron from 189 yards to 7 feet with a chance to tie for the lead, the 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.
 
The drama unfolded even after some of the stars had left the course.
 
Els finished his bogey-free 66 and had his clubs in the trunk of his car when he heard the loud cheer from the 18th green after Woods stuffed his 6-iron close. Then came a groan after the missed putt. Els had his golf shoes in a plastic bag when he was told that Slocum and Stricker, tied for the lead at 9 under had driven into fairway bunkers on the 18th. He quickly changed shoes and headed to the range.
 
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, as did his wedge, leaving him 20 feet from the top of the ridge.
 
Slocum raised both arms in the air when his par putt broke gently back to the left and disappeared into the cup. Strickers putt to force a two-way playoff caught the left lip of the cup.
 
In the third year of these playoffs, the FedEx Cup finally has a winner that resembles a real underdog.
 
Thats what its all about, Slocum said. I was sweating it out last week. I didnt even know if Id 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 for the biggest win of his career. 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.
 
The 35-year-old knocked in a 25-foot birdie 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 No. 5. He was steady the rest of the way, especially on the 18th.
 
Anybody here in this field has the potential to win the tournament, Stricker said. Heath is a very steady player. Hes a very good player. I dont think we should be surprised that he won.
 
The surprise came from Woods.
 
The worlds No. 1 player was lurking most of the day, unable to get any traction while missing so many putts. A 3-footer for par rimmed around the cup at No. 4, and he failed to convert birdie putts on two of the par 5s from inside 10 feet.
 
Down the stretch, everything changed.
 
He made a 10-foot birdie on the 14th, saved par with a 15-foot putt on the next hole, and got in range with pitch to 2 feet for birdie on the 16th. And with everything riding on one shot, he nailed his 6-iron to birdie range.
 
Any other week, any other course, Woods making that putt was practically a given.
 
This one never had a chance.
 
Usually, he makes it, Slocum said. Ho-hum for him. I guess you cant make em all.
 
Els played bogey-free and pulled into a tie for the lead with a birdie on the par-3 14th. He might have been hurt using a new driver, after discovering a crack in his other one on Saturday. Els felt his tee shots were getting away to the right, and he didnt want to risk such a mistake on the par-4 16th, which played only 287 yards in the final round. He laid up and made par.
 
From where Ive come from, where my game has been, where my confidence has been, this is moving in the right direction, said Els, who has not won since March 2008 at the Honda Classic.
 
Harrington continued his solid form, getting into the mix for the third straight tournament. He finished with four birdies over the final seven holes, making a long birdie at the 18th.
 
The final round featured endless possibilities, except for the guys atop the leaderboard.
 
Steve Marino and Paul Goydos, tied for the lead at 9 under to start the final round, and Webb Simpson and Fredrik Jacobson, both two shots behind, combined to go 11-over par. Marino shot 77, while Goydos made only one birdie in his round of 75.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”