Barely a qualifier, Heath Slocum vaults to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup playoffs with a one-shot victory at the Barclays
In the Year of the Cockeyed Storyline, Heath Slocum's victory at the FedEx Cup postseason opener should have produced a shock no greater than a mid-winter spark of static electricity. A 20-foot par-save on Liberty National's 18th hole left Slocum one stroke ahead of a quartet with 20 major championships and a severe case of 20/20 hindsight, which obviously served no useful purpose on the same green Slocum clinched his third PGA Tour triumph.
Confused? So are the golf gods. As a pleasant Sunday afternoon churned out a highly entertaining homestretch, Slocum, who squeaked into the Barclays because Matt Jones shot a 74 instead of 72 in the final round of the regular-season finale a week earlier, seemed unlikely to withstand the presence of those gathering just below him on the leader board, a group headlined by the Dude in the Red Shirt.
No, not Steve Marino. "If I'd hit it poorly, I would have been pissed," Tiger Woods said of his seven-foot miss for birdie at the 18th, a burned left edge that served as a fitting end to another week of putting woes. Woods said he couldn't remember a tournament when he relied so heavily on caddie Steve Williams to help read greens, a dependency that only proved four eyes aren't necessarily better than two.
"We had it either right-center with a little pace, or inside-right," Tiger added. "We missed it by almost a cup. It's frustrating when you misread a putt that bad."
And unusual, especially with a trophy just begging to be held, if not totally ironic. Slocum's game-winner one group later was on a very similar line to Woods' miss, just three times longer. So the guy who qualified for the FedEx derby by two whole points, a guy whose last whiff of the hunt occurred six months ago at an opposite-field event in Mexico—Slocum finished T-3 while the world's top 64 players were beating on each other at the WGC-Accenture Match Play—out-clutched Tiger, who has only been holing must-makes since the mid-1990s.
Until Hazeltine, anyway. If the PGA Championship revealed Woods as slightly human, Slocum assumed the role of Y.E. Yang with a bit less bang. He swished that 20-footer after driving his ball into a fairway bunker, moving a 6-iron about 70 yards, then hitting a below-average wedge that left him a longer par attempt than he should have had.
When Steve Stricker, who eats 10-footers for breakfast, missed from that distance on basically the same line as Woods and Slocum, nine under was good enough and only one guy was on it. "An incredible day, incredible experience," Slocum proclaimed. "I was kind of lucky to come out on top. A lot of good players. The putt on the last hole was magical. I'll remember that for the rest of my life."
Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington rounded out the decorated runner-up foursome, Harrington with a birdie to finish, but neither stood over a putt to force a playoff—or in Tiger's case, a decent chance to win in regulation. The funny thing about it is, the eight playoff events in the two postseasons prior to this have all been won by name players. That is, if you consider Camilo Villegas as something other than a player with more syllables in his name than victories in his career.
Slocum is the FedEx Cup's first upset champion, and thus, he moves from 124th to third in the updated standings, trailing only Woods and Stricker. Given the tour's latest version of playoff math, which raises the volume on volatility to eardrum-shattering levels, Slocum would have a hard time improving his timing.