Sluman's lead holds up this time

Sunday, July 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Jeff Sluman held it together this time on the final day of the Greater Milwaukee Open.

Sluman fired a 3-under-par 68 Sunday for a four-stroke victory over Tim Herron (66) and Steve Lowery (70) and his second GMO title.

His 23-under 261 total was one stroke shy of Loren Roberts' 72-hole GMO record set two years ago.

Sluman also led the GMO field heading into the final day last year. But his erratic play caught up to him and he faltered to a 10th-place finish at Brown Deer Park.

``I had a lot of friends and family up from Chicago to cheer me on and after feeling last year like I disappointed them, I was certainly glad to get it done this year,'' Sluman said.

After bogeying the second hole, Sluman made four straight birdies, then played it safe for his sixth PGA Tour victory and the biggest paycheck of his career, $558,000 of the $3.1 million purse.

After birdies on Nos. 3-6, Sluman, who also won the GMO in 1998, wasn't nearly the aggressor he'd been all weekend.

``It's funny how your mind kind of goes, because nobody had really made a huge run and I had a four- and five-shot lead at various times,'' he said. ``And I just didn't want to make a mistake.''

So, he quit attacking the pins as he had in carding a record 64-66-63 through three rounds.

``I felt if I could do that and if I missed anything it was on the left side, where I had a little bit of room to work with to get to the flag that I'd be in pretty good shape,'' Sluman said. ``And obviously it worked out pretty well.''

Kenny Perry (65) took fourth, one stroke ahead of Joey Sindelar (65), Greg Chalmers (69) and Wisconsin native J.P. Hayes (67), who finished six strokes back.

Sluman, who bettered Roberts' 54-hole record of 19-under with a 20-under 193, took a two stroke lead over Lowery into the final round Sunday.

On the second hole, he recorded just his second bogey of the tournament. He followed with four straight birdies and made the turn at 23 under with Lowery four strokes back.

Lowery briefly injected some intrigue into the tournament when he cut the deficit in half on the 10th hole, a 447-yard, par-4, with a birdie to go with Sluman's bogey.

But he negated his gain with bogeys on Nos. 11 and on 13.

``That's not a good time to do that,'' Lowery said of his three-putt on 11. ``I think if I would knocked it in there and made birdie or par, made him think about it for a few holes, it might have been a little different.

``But he got that one right back and he never seemed to look back.''

Sluman birdied No. 14 for a five-stroke lead.

``I felt relatively comfortable at that point,'' Sluman said.

Even when Sluman drove the ball into the trees on the right side on 16 and 18, he saved par both times after safe pitches to the fairway.

``You never could catch him,'' Lowery said. ``He played well with the lead.''

Unlike last year, when he closed with a 72.

Brown Deer's par-71, 6,759-yard layout is one of the shortest on the PGA Tour and puts a premium on iron play and putting. While neutralizing the long hitters, Brown Deer serves as an enticing course to veterans long on patience.

Three of the top four finishers were in their 40s.

Herron, who's 32, relished his second-place finish because his wife, Ann, is due to give birth to their first child next week.

``Now, I won't have too much pressure to get on the road to keep my (PGA Tour) card,'' Herron said.

Skip Kendall, who grew up near Brown Deer Park in Fox Point, hit a hole-in-one with a 5-iron on the 215-yard, par-3 seventh hole on his way to a tie for 10th place.