This time, Jeff Sluman made sure he kept the mistakes to a minimum in the final round of the Greater Milwaukee Open.
A year ago, Sluman led by a shot heading into the final round at Brown Deer Park, but fell all the way to a tie for 10th after a 1-over 72 that left him five shots behind winner Shigeki Maruyama.
This year, Sluman hung tough with a final-round 68 July 14, sailing to a four-shot victory over Tim Herron (66) and Steve Lowery (70) for his second GMO title. Kenny Perry (65) finished fourth.
Sluman, 44, who also won here in 1998, finished with a 23-under 261 total, one shot shy of the tournament record set two years ago by Loren Roberts.
“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,” said Sluman, who earned $558,000, the biggest paycheck of his career, for his sixth PGA Tour title.
Sluman took command right from the start Sunday. After a bogey on No. 2, only his second of the tournament, he had four consecutive birdies, then set it on cruise control the rest of the way, not playing nearly as aggressively as he had the first three rounds when he shot 64-66-63.
“Nobody had really made a huge run, and I had a four- and five-shot lead at various times,” said Sluman. “And I just didn’t want to make a mistake.”
Lowery, down by two after three rounds, trailed Sluman by four at the turn, but cut the deficit in half with a birdie at the 10th, a hole Sluman bogeyed. But Lowery quickly gave the strokes back with bogeys at Nos. 11 and 13, and Sluman stretched his lead to five with a birdie at 14.
“That’s not a good time to do that,” Lowery said of his three-putt on 11. “I think if I would have 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.”
Even when Sluman drove the ball into the trees down the right side on Nos. 16 and 18, he saved par both times.
Three of the top four finishers are in their 40s, proving once again that Brown Deer Park is a place where patient veterans can neutralize the Tour’s long hitters with straight driving, strong iron play and a slick short game.
Herron, 32, finished 66-65-66 and, with his first child on the way, found a little relief with his second-place finish and $272,800 in earnings. His wife, Ann, is due to give birth next week.
“Now I won’t have too much pressure to get on the road to keep my (Tour) card,” said Herron, who tied for third here last year. He entered the week with only two top-20 finishes in 19 events in 2002, and it was his best finish since a tie for second at the 1999 FedEx St. Jude Classic.