There are moments in every sport where people stop what they are doing and pay attention, a no-hitter in baseball for instance. When it comes to golf, nothing grabs our attention like a player gunning for a 59.
Jeff Sluman flirted with that sacred number on Sunday at the 3M Championship, but in the end, like so many before him, he came up short, settling for 62.
Sluman began the day 7-strokes back of the leader Tom Pernice Jr. and admittedly didn’t give much thought to contending on Sunday, but a ridiculous start, which included birdies on eight of the first nine- holes, gave him hope.
When asked about his day, Sluman said, “all in all, very pleased with the day, even sitting here talking to you guys and thinking I have a very, very outside chance of maybe playing-off, I wasn’t counting on that starting the day”.
It was a ho-hum 34 on the back-nine that made Sluman skeptical about his chances. While elated with his round, Sluman didn’t think his score would hold up, after all, he’d started so far off the pace, even with his blistering round, Sluman was only one-stroke ahead of Pernice Jr. when he finished, and Pernice Jr. still had five holes to play.
Golf is often about bounces, good bounces, bad bounces, if you play enough, you see them all. On the front-nine, Sluman had nothing to complain about, but he ran into one particularly tough break on the back side, a divot that his tee shot on the 18th settled in. Standing above that ball, Sluman figured a decent approach shot would ensure a birdie and perhaps a victory, but the divot came into play and his approach was anything but decent. A remarkable chip shot renewed his chances for a birdie as Sluman was left with only 5-feet for birdie, but it wasn’t meant to be as the putt missed on the left side.
On a day when Sluman got just about everything right, his post-round premonition was correct also. When asked if his score would hold up, Sluman said, “I don’t think so, lot of birdie holes out there. I would have felt much better if I’d made birdie on 18 and got it to 17-under. I think somebody will run past it.
In the end, nobody “ran past” Sluman’s score, but Tom Pernice Jr. finished with a fury on the final two holes and crept past Sluman for a one-stroke victory.
It’s amazing, on a day when he flirted with 59 and settled for 62, Sluman wasn't quite good enough.