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September 1, 2009

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Slocum springs Barclays surprise

HEATH Slocum might have been the one player no one expected to win The Barclays in Jersey City, New Jersey, when he was locked in a tense battle over the final hour on Sunday with some of the biggest names in golf - Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els.

On the same green where Woods stunned the crowd by missing a putt from 7 feet, Slocum knocked in a 20-foot par for a one-shot victory to get this FedEx Cup bonanza off to a compelling start.

Woods, Els, Harrington and Stricker tied for second at 8 under.

Slocum closed with a 4-under 67 to win for the third time in his career, and first time in four years. The victory, worth US$1.35 million, moved him from No. 124 to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings, giving him a shot at the US$10 million prize next month in Atlanta.

"It was an incredible day, incredible experience," Slocum said. "I was just kind of lucky to come out on top. A lot of good players. At the end of the day, that putt on the last was magical. I'll remember that for the rest of my life."

For Woods, it was another finish he'd like to forget.

In his first tournament since losing a two-shot lead to unheralded Y.E. Yang in the PGA Championship, the putter again cost Woods a chance to win.

Woods twice missed from inside 10 feet on par 5s. And after another clutch shot on the 18th hole, this one a 6-iron from 189 yards to 7 feet with a chance to tie for the lead, the birdie putt slid by on the left.

"It happens," said Woods, who shot a 67. "Not too many golf courses that you misread putts that badly. This golf course is one."

The drama unfolded even after some of the stars had left the course.

Els finished his bogey-free 66 and had his clubs in the trunk of his car when he heard the loud cheer from the 18th green after Woods hit his 6-iron close. When he was told that Slocum and Stricker, tied for the lead at 9 under had driven into fairway bunkers on the 18th. He quickly changed shoes and headed to the range.

Stricker caught the lip of the bunker, which left him short of the green, and hit wedge to 10 feet. Slocum also came up short, as did his wedge, leaving him 20 feet from the top of the ridge.

Slocum raised both arms in the air when his par putt broke gently back to the left and disappeared into the cup. Stricker's putt to force a two-way playoff lipped out.

Meanwhile, in Gleneagles, Scotland, Peter Hedblom shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday to win the Johnnie Walker Championship title by one stroke over Martin Erlandsson.

Hedblom won his third European Tour victory at 13-under 275 overall.


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