Sluman fires 65 at Memorial

Friday, June 3, 2005

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Even after Jeff Sluman polished off his best round of the year, a 7-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead in the Memorial, he was quick to ask the question on just about every player's mind Thursday.

What did Jack shoot?

In what might be his final PGA Tour event on American soil, Jack Nicklaus sent a fan to the hospital after hitting him with a tee shot, sent the gallery to its feet with back-to-back birdie putts inside 6 inches and spent most of the gray, cool day at Muirfield Village holding his own until three bogeys on the last four holes dropped him to a 75.

It was better than Vijay Singh (77), Davis Love III (78) and Mike Weir (76), but still 10 shots behind Sluman, and not nearly good enough to make him feel like celebrating.

"I had a chance to shoot a pretty darn good score," Nicklaus said. "I shot 75. That's about my game. I don't see anybody being scared by it. It didn't scare a soul except me."

No one was scared, although that didn't stop the admiration and appreciation of the tournament founder and host, now on the last leg of an incomparable competitive career.

Joe Ogilvie, invited by Nicklaus to take part in a junior clinic Wednesday, shot a 67 and between questions in his interview quietly asked what Nicklaus shot. So did 24-year-old Adam Scott after bogeying the last hole for a 67, and three-time Memorial champion Tiger Woods after his bogey-free 69.

Told that it was a 75 and that Nicklaus wasn't pleased, Woods smiled.

"Shocking, huh?" he said. "It's Jack, you know? If he shoots over par, he's going to be mad. I'm sure he's going to probably go out on the range and work a little bit so he's ready tomorrow. Hey, that's what made him the greatest player that's ever played the game. He's never satisfied."

No one is more appreciative than Sluman, and for good reason.

Nicklaus' assistant captain at the Presidents Cup two years ago, Sluman needed a sponsor's exemption to play in the Memorial. Equipped with a new putting grip he tried out of desperation, the 47-year-old Sluman took only 24 putts and had three birdies on the par 3s for a one-shot lead over Rory Sabbatini.

Twenty-eight players broke 70, and nine players were within two shots of the lead.

Woods, who can regain the No. 1 ranking this week, opened with 12 straight pars until he picked up two easy birdie putts on the par 5s -- both were two-putts from about 20 feet -- and opened with a 69.

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