Sluman-Faxon win Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comApril 29, 2013 

SAVANNAH -- Revenge at The Club at Savannah Harbor left the putting green dotted with white splotches.

Someone would have to clean up, but Brad Faxon wouldn't be the guy, too busy enjoying payback at the expense of friend Jeff Sluman.

The pair teamed to win the Champions Tour's Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf on Sunday, finishing at 23-under-par 193 to outduel a leaderboard that at one point featured a seven-way tied for the lead on the back nine. The birdie-fest sputtered in the final holes, those needing birdie left muttering at their putters.

The victors enjoyed the customary post-round television interview. A Faxon accomplice slipped him a whipped cream pie as the shot went live, and Faxon mashed the faux pastry into Sluman's face.

Sluman had done the same when Faxon won his first Champions Tour event, at the 2011 Insperity Championship.

Each man earned $230,000 for the victory Sunday, pushing Sluman past the $25 million mark in career earnings.

"It's great to play with a friend like Brad," the 55-year-old Sluman said, long after wiping his face clean.

"It's really not that big a deal for me," 51-year-old Faxon deadpanned. "I wonder what (Bernard) Langer is doing next year."

Fred Funk and Mike Goodes, whose round included an eagle at the par-4 second hole, finished tied for second at 22 under with Kenny Perry and Savannah resident Gene Sauers. Eight teams finished another shot back, including defending champions Michael Allen and David Frost.

Through 30 years of the friendship, Sluman struggled with his short game, one of Faxon's strengths. Faxon offered to help each time he noticed a tendency he thought he could fix.

The work picked up a year and a half ago, and Sluman described some shots around the green Sunday as not being possible before, including a flop shot on the par-5 fourth to set up a birdie.

"It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice, and you've got to be able to do it under the gun," Sluman said. "But he's always made time for me."

Without much leaderboard watching, the partners figured they needed to birdie two of the final three holes to have a chance. They played the stretch even par, but it was good enough on a difficult day, when a southeast wind and Sunday pins kept scoring from plunging.

The par-4 final hole surrendered no birdies Sunday with the breeze up, the pin atop a back shelf and the back of the green running away into a dead zone. Faxon came closest, his 15-foot putt horeshoeing the cup, causing the former Furman golfer to fall face-first onto the green.

"If it didn't hit the hole, it would still be going down the hill to the grandstand," Faxon said on the way to his television interview.

Faxon, long recognized as one of the game's best putters, didn't experience the many of the struggles of his colleagues. The team of Craig Stadler and Kirk Triplett, needing a birdie on one of the final two holes to force a playoff, instead missed a short putt on No. 18 to make bogey and drop into a tie for fourth.

"Blech," Stadler said to a group of supporters after he had signed his scorecard.

Andy North, who with partner Tom Watson had a chance down the stretch but also finished tied for fourth, threw something imaginary at the ground as he walked to sign his card.

"It was just a little more of an edge to the golf course this year," Sluman said.

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