Hometown champion Sluman wants to enjoy the moment
Jeff Sluman, who lives just down the road from Medinah in Hinsdale, Ill., has learned from experience that trying too hard hurts his game. So the 1984 PGA Champion relaxed last week and is just looking forward to the experience.
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) -- Jeff Sluman recalled his first visit to Tiger Woods' house six years ago.
It was dark outside, and Sluman couldn't see the address on the house. So he peered through a window and told his wife, 'We're at the right spot.' When she asked how he knew, Sluman mentioned the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA trophies he saw on a table.
"I don't think there are many others in this neighborhood with that," he told her.
Sluman's house is stocked more with wine than major trophies, but it's not completely bare. He does have the 1988 PGA Championship he won at Oak Tree.
Another PGA Championship starts Thursday at Medinah, about 20 miles from Sluman's home in Hinsdale. He's in a comfortable spot. So is Woods, which could be bad news for the rest of the field.
After losing his father to cancer and missing the cut at the U.S. Open, Woods won the British Open at Hoylake. Now, he's back at the site of one of his most important major victories. After going 10 majors without winning, he nearly blew a five-stroke lead before hanging on to win the '99 PGA Championship by one over Sergio Garcia.
Although he gets to sleep in his own bed, Sluman hasn't played particularly well near home -- either in the Chicago area or his native Rochester, N.Y.
He shot 6-over and tied for 54th at Medinah in 1999, and missed the cut in the 1989 U.S. Open and the 2003 PGA Championship, both at Oak Hill.
"I've been out here long enough to know that the harder you try and the more you want something, usually that's the worst you play," Sluman said Monday. "And you want to play well in front of your home folks, so I just need to probably relax a little bit more and just enjoy the moment."
Eighteen years ago, he captured the PGA Championship by firing a final-round 65 to finish three strokes ahead of Paul Azinger.
Sluman remembers lifting the Wanamaker trophy and being stunned by the weight: "They hand it to you, and you're like, 'Whoa, hey."'
This year's tournament will be played on the longest course in major championship history at 7,561 yards. And Sluman isn't known for his long game.
Woods offered a reminder Monday morning that the shortest distances -- those found on the reshaped greens of Medinah -- usually go a long way toward determining the winner.
Sluman was asked if he has ever played a course he thought was too long.
"Every week," he replied.
Once the laughter subsided, including his own, Sluman said the course's length didn't intimidate him.
"The highest winning scores for the majority of the courses we play on tour seem to be the shortest golf courses," he said. "So it's not necessarily length that makes the golf course difficult."
Usually, Sluman plays the week before a major. Not this time.
Although he has lived in the area 14 years, Sluman rarely ventures beyond Hinsdale Golf Club. He played Medinah three or four times last year and has taken some swings at Cog Hill, but rarely tees off at the top courses in the region.
"I play so much on tour when I'm home, I want to spend it with my family," he said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.