Sluman Wins GMO But Not Trip to British


2002 Greater Milwaukee OpenMuirfield might not miss him much this week, but that doesn't mean Jeff Sluman shouldn't be there. The bottom line is, he belongs.
On Sunday he completed a four-day demolition of Brown Deer Park and the field at the Greater Milwaukee Open. His 23-under par total fell one shy of the tournament's all-time scoring mark of 24-under-par by Loren Roberts in 2000. But that isn't the only thing Sluman falls a bit shy of as he journeys to the state of New York to defend this week's B.C. Open.

Sluman is now 26th on the PGA Tour's money list. Last year he was 21st at year's end. His Sunday win in Milwaukee was his sixth on the PGA Tour. It was his fifth since 1997, the fifth in the last six years in fact. Yet the 44-year-old will not travel across the pond for this week's Open Championship.

Simply stated, Sluman didn't qualify under any of the system's opportunities to do so. He didn't earn enough money last year. He didn't finish high enough in the World Golf Ranking. He didn't finish high enough on the leaderboard at week's end in Chicago at the Advil Western Open. And he didn't qualify under this year's money list deadlines.
And he knows that. Yet it seems quite odd that the man who's accomplished so much since the age of 39 won't be a part of the year's third major championship.

Sluman made Brown Deer Park his own personal picnic place with rounds of 64 and 63, sprinkled in with a few 'sub-standard' rounds of 66 and 68. He won by four shots. He's playing great golf, and yet he's not qualified under the British Open's qualification system.

With all due respect to others, Sluman belongs ahead of the likes of first-timer Neal Lancaster or veteran major winner Corey Pavin. Perhaps he could replace Brandt Jobe, who's bypassing his opportunity to be closer to home with his wife Jennifer, who's set to give birth to the couple's second child any day now. Just for fun, check the 2002 PGA Tour money list at this stage against the British Open field. Look at all the names behind the pesky little pro, this guy who knows how to navigate most golf courses as well as Charles Lindbergh navigated his way across water. Ironic isn't?? Lindbergh made it across the water, yet Sluman remains grounded in the States. Go figure.

Sluman's playing well enough to go. Just three bogeys all week at Brown Deer Park. So unhappy about a bogey on Sunday was Sluman that he promptly rolled off four straight birdies to 'right the victory ship.' He began Sunday with a two-shot lead, and had no plans of giving it up. His win stopped a three-week streak of come-from-behind victories (Phil Mickelson in Hartford, Len Mattiace in Memphis, and Jerry Kelly in Chicago.) Sluman deserves the chance.

Sure, Muirfield's loss is Endicott, N.Y.'s gain. They get the Rochester, N.Y., native to come back home and defend the title he won last year when he 'slipped out' of British qualification contention. Call me crazy, but Sluman's easily the best player in the field at the B.C. Open. He's playing the best, he's coming off victory and he might just have a chip on his shoulder for the second straight year.

As shocked as I am that Sluman's not going overseas, I'll be equally as shocked if Sluman's not in position to win again at En-Joie Golf Club. It's just my opinion. Feel free to disagree. But I just spent four days in Milwaukee watching Sluman. And if you don't want to take my opinion, ask Tim Herron, Steve Lowery or Kenny Perry. They couldn't catch him. And they tried. Boy did they try!