Notes Slumans Back and Lefty Goes Left

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jeff Sluman couldn't even finish last week in New Orleans, forced to withdraw during the final round with a bad back.
 
After two days of treatment and a couple more of just being careful, the 47-year-old veteran is having little problems in the Wachovia Championship. A 2-under 70 Friday left him tied for eighth at 141, four shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
 
Sluman would have been much closer if not for a double bogey on the 18th hole.
 
'I was happy with it,' the 1988 PGA champ said. 'I really wasn't obviously happy with the way I finished, but I hit the shots the way I wanted. So overall, I got no complaints.'
 
Particularly after his injury last Sunday. He went back home to Chicago and did some rehab on his back, then came to Quail Hollow in time to play three holes Tuesday. He got through the pro-am with no flare-ups, and so far, he hasn't felt the pain through two rounds of the tournament, including a brisk, windy day Friday.
 
'It seems pretty good,' Sluman said. 'If it wasn't going to bother me today, then I'm probably home free for the most part - if I just don't something stupid with it.'
 
His problems on the final hole certainly weren't unique. The par-4 played at 478 yards in the second round, with a steady breeze blowing right into the player's faces. Sluman's drive found the creek down the left side, and after a drop, he hacked it out of the rough and still had about 120 yards left to the green.
 
He pitched on and two-putted for his 6.
 
'This golf course setup is fantastic, the conditions are playing firm and fast,' Sluman said. 'Now there's some skill involved. Let's see if you can control your ball flight. I think all in all, it was sort of prime out there today.'
 
And he's making the most of a new putting stroke. Sluman went to the claw putting grip in New Orleans and has enjoyed the results.
 
'I'm rolling the ball, I think, like I used to, at least,' he said. 'I've made a lot of putts, and hit a lot of good putts that came close to going in, which I haven't seen, quite frankly, in a number of years.'
 
PLAYING WITH PAIN
Chris DiMarco isn't painfree, even while his game sure is.
 
The runner-up to Tiger Woods in the Masters nearly pulled out of the Wachovia Championship before it began, troubled by a sore neck. He made it to the first tee Thursday and managed a 2-over 74, then really got going in the second round.
 
Thanks to an eagle-birdie-birdie run late in his final nine, DiMarco tied Greg Owen and D.J. Trahan for low round of the day with a 67, moving him to 3 under and four shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
 
'I made about a 70-footer on No. 5 for eagle, chipped in for birdie on No. 6,' DiMarco said. 'Playing those holes 4 under usually helps the score pretty good.'
 
He's hopeful more treatment on his neck will help for the weekend.
 
'It hurt out there today,' he said. 'Obviously, looking up there and seeing good shots makes the pain a little bit less. And obviously, it didn't affect my play too much.'
 
MICKELSON'S STRUGGLES
Phil Mickelson was in contention, 2 under on the day to move within sight of the leaders.
 
One swing brought his progress to a screeching halt.
 
Lefty blocked a 6-iron well left on No. 17 and his ball found the water, leading to a double bogey. More troubles on 18 gave him a bogey and left him at even-par heading into the weekend.
 
'It was a tough course today with the wind,' Mickelson said. 'It played very difficult. But there were some low scores out there, too. Jeff Sluman in the group in front of me played pretty well, and Sergio (Garcia), the leader, he played under par. So it was out there.'
 
When asked about his tee shot on the 17th, Mickelson cut the question short.
 
'I knocked it in the water, made double. It happens,' he said.
 
One of his playing partners, Jonathan Kaye, also knocked it in the hazard there.
 
'Jonathan Kaye hit a good shot right in the middle of the green, landed on the front third and it still went in the water, so go figure,' Mickelson said.
 
TOUGH GOING
Mercifully, the wind that the morning groups faced calmed later in the day, leaving the closing holes for the two-tee start - Nos. 9, 17 and 18 - a bit more playable.
 
At one point, the scoring average on the par-3 17th was 3.8. Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot in the water and made a double bogey, but he fared better than six players who made 6. Jimmy Walker and Brian Bateman did it in the same group.
 
Walker put it in the water short, and Bateman's shot bounced across the left side of the green before rolling off into the hazard. Daniel Chopra, Cameron Beckman, Tom Pernice Jr. and Ryan Palmer also made triple bogeys.
 
'It's downwind today,' Jeff Sluman said. 'We've got our names on our bags, so we're supposed to be able to hit the green. But it's still a very difficult shot, because the wind is gusting a little bit here and there, so you've got to get up and decide what kind of shot you want to hit.
 
'And you're still not guaranteed it's going to end up good.'
 
That also was the case at the ninth, a par-4 that was listed at 486 yards and left many players hitting fairway metals for their second shots. Pernice couldn't reach it even then, and many others were in the same predicament.
 
'I annihilated a drive, low and left, and it got caught up in the rough,' Dennis Paulson said. 'But I had only 213 yards to the front edge, and I just crushed a 2-iron, and it still came up 8 yards short of the green.'
 
Beckman, also in Paulson's group, had 270 yards left for his approach to the hole, set 32 yards deep in the 37-yard green.
 
'It's just playing ridiculous, and it's a bad pin for how it's playing, too,' Paulson said. 'They had a couple of holes that were marginal setup today.'
 
He added No. 6 to the list of problems, a par-3 that measured 263 yards.
 
'Just your average par-3,' Paulson quipped. 'We all hit it on the green there, and I made birdie, but it's brutal.'
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Wachovia Championship

  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship

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