SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – After teaming with Craig Stadler for two runner-up finishes in three tries at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, Jeff Sluman decided it was time for a change.
He called Brad Faxon nearly two years ago to court him as a teammate for the Champion Tour's annual team competition and the new pairing paid off on Sunday as theyn combined for a final-round 7-under-par 65 to finish at 23-under for a one-stroke victory at the Club at Savannah Harbor.
“I had a wonderful four, five years with Stads and all that, but like everything else, it was time,'' Sluman said.
When Sluman called Faxon on Aug. 1, 2011, Faxon – who was becoming eligible for the Champions Tour – was flattered yet somewhat perplexed. Sluman's voice came over the line as a whisper. Asked why he was speaking so softly, Sluman replied “I don't want Stads to know.''
Sluman and Stadler had partnered for the Legends tournament for 2008, 2009 and 2011, with runner-up finishes in the first two events highlighting those appearances.
After tie for third in their debut as a team last year, Sluman and Faxon came through in the better-ball format this time with each earning $230,000 of the winner's purse. Sluman's earnings pushed him past the $25-million mark for his professional career.
Fred Funk and Mike Goodes combined for a 63 and Gene Sauers and Kenny Perry had a 62 to finished in a tie for second, one shot behind.
Stadler and teammate Kirk Triplett came to the final hole needing a birdie to force a playoff, but both missed the fairway off the tee, which forced them to play aggressively around the green. They made bogey, dropping them into a tie for fourth, two shots behind the winners.
“We had a great time, but I know we both were really frustrated because we really had a chance to win this thing,'' Triplett said. “We played like a couple guys that hadn't been in contention very much.''
Sunday's windy conditions and difficult pin positions impacted play as well. The Legends is contested on a low, flat course located on an island in the middle of the Savannah River, just upstream from the Atlantic Ocean. Only three teams broke 65 Sunday after 13 teams shot 64 or better in the second round.
Sluman and Faxon's topped the scores of the more legendary teams that started the day on the leaderboard, such as Tom Watson and Andy North (67) and Bernhardt Langer and Tom Lehman (69).
Sluman and Faxon credited their close relationship for carrying them to victory. They shook off a sloppy second round, marked by their only bogey of the week, over an 86-year-old bottle of dessert wine Saturday night at a local restaurant.
“This is a perfect marriage because it's not like we're going to get mad at each other if either one of us doesn't play well,'' Faxon said. “I know he's going to try his hardest, and I'm going to try my hardest.''
Sluman led the final round charge, making five birdie putts. He called No. 12 the “key hole,'' draining the duo's longest putt of the week, a 35-footer, on the 17,000-square-foot green.
Sluman's birdie at No. 12 dropped their score to 22-under and an eight-foot birdie putt by Sluman two holes later broke a logjam on the leaderboard and put them in the lead for good. They were the only pairing to reach 23-under on the day.
Sluman was overjoyed to snap his bridesmaid streak at the Legends, saying “It's a dream come true to win with Brad.''
Bernhard Langer maintained his lead in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup points standings. His tie for 14th place gave him a 252-point lead through seven events.