PEBBLE BEACH, Calif.(AP) Jeff Sluman overcame a six-stroke deficit Sunday at Pebble Beach to successfully defend his Walmart First Tee Open title, acing the fifth hole and finishing with a 4-under 68 for a two-stroke victory.
Sluman, who started the day tied for fifth after a second-round 73, had four birdies and the hole-in-one on the 187-yard fifth to finish at 10-under 206.
“I don’t think I’ve come back from two, certainly not from six, but this is the kind of golf course (where) that can happen,” Sluman said. “When the wind picks up and the conditions get rough, if you’re not spot-on your game it’s difficult to make pars out there.”
Gene Jones shot a 70 to finish second. Tom Lehman (73) and Mark O’Meara (75) followed at 7 under, and second-round leader Loren Roberts (78) tied for fifth with David Eger (69) and Olin Browne (71) at 6 under.
Sluman won for the first time this season after winning twice last year in his first full season on the Champions Tour. He won six times on the PGA Tour.
The hole-in-one was his fifth time in competition.
“Being nearly 52 I never saw it go in,” Sluman said. “I heard a bunch of people say, ‘Get in,’ so obviously it was going in the correct direction. Any time you make one it’s great. To make one on the last round when it’s really important, pretty special.”
After catching Roberts, Sluman had held off runs by Jones and Mark O’Meara after they closed within a shot of the lead.
Sluman opened with a 65 at Del Monte and shot a 73 on Saturday at Pebble Beach.
He shot a front-nine 31, highlighted by the ace on No. 5 that pulled him into a tie with O’Meara, two shots behind Roberts. Roberts and O’Meara, playing behind Sluman, both followed with bogeys on No. 5 to make it even tighter.
Sluman kept the pressure on and took the lead with a birdie on No. 9 while Roberts bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8 to drop two shots back.
“All of the years of playing Pebble under so many different conditions helped me out there,” Sluman said. “The experience and kind of knowing where to hit it and knowing how to get it around this golf course. That was key for me.”
Roberts, coming off a one-stroke victory over O’Meara last week in the Boeing Classic in Washington, couldn’t stop his freefall and ended the day with six bogeys after getting making just two in the first two rounds.
Jones made his run with three birdies on the front nine. He then birdied No. 10 to pull within one of the lead but bogeyed 11 and 14 to fall back.
“It was one of those kind of days,” Jones said. “You have to stay relaxed in the wind. It was a grinding type of day.”
O’Meara, a 16-time winner on the PGA Tour who was two shots off the pace heading into the final round, is winless since joining the Champions Tour in 2007.
Sluman’s bogey on No. 11 cut his lead to one stroke, but he came back to birdie No. 14, then parred three of the final four holes for the win.
As he prepared to put out on No. 18, Sluman was interrupted by comedian Bill Murray who stood about 30 feet away and yelled “We love you Jeff!” as the crowd laughed.
Roberts, meanwhile, was left to think about what could have been after blowing what appeared to be a comfortable lead.
He had three bogeys in a four-hole span on the front nine, then bogeyed three consecutive holes on the back nine to fade away.