Kemper roller coaster bumps all but buddies


POTOMAC -- This is the kind of day it was at the Kemper Open yesterday:

Ben Crenshaw crushed a drive on the 16th hole, but he hit it so good it went too far and ended up in a fairway bunker. His shoulders were sloped to about belt level when he grabbed a 4-iron and belted it . . . into the hole, 180 yards distant.

"What can you do?" he asked, rhetorically. A galleryite answered, "Go pick it out of the cup."

The very next shot Ben hit, on the par-3 17th, went in the water. An eagle followed by a double bogey. Easy come, easy go. Elation, frustration. Hope, despair.

And the guys riding in the front seat of the daylong roller coaster final round at Avenel were Jeff Sluman and Billy Andrade, paired with longtime tour stars Greg Norman and Hal Sutton in the final twosomes. Sutton started the day in the lead by a stroke over Norman and Andrade with Sluman three shots back.

Between them, Norman and Sutton have won everything but the Davis Cup, including enough money to put a dent in the national debt. The upstarts carried one tour victory between them.

"Jeff came up to me on the putting green before going out and said, 'Let's go, pal, you and me,' " recalled Andrade. Sluman, as it turned out, hit the exacta, only not in the order he wanted.

While Sutton was shooting five pars, Norman put a bogey with three pars and an eagle and Andrade put a birdie and four pars on his card. Sluman's three birdies and two pars dictated a four-way tie at 19-under-par. It was 3 o'clock.

In the next hour, Sluman got the lead, lost it with a bogey but got it back with an eagle. By 5 o'clock, another birdie had Jeff up by two strokes and the guy pursuing was Andrade.

Perhaps a word or two about these young men is in order at this time. The way it turns out, these guys are a little more than circumstantial rivals. "Billy's my best friend on tour," said Sluman. "I got a place in Palm Springs and he and his wife stayed with me during the [Bob] Hope [tournament]. When we played Atlanta, I stayed with them."

"Right from the start about three years ago, our personalities clashed very well," noted Andrade. "When we're on the road and staying in the same hotel, we go out about twice a week." Now back to the live action.

"When I got up two [strokes] with three to play," said Sluman, "I figured I'd be OK if I parred in." Jeff was standing on the 18th tee when Andrade made a birdie putt at No. 16. The leader was sizing up his second shot on the home hole when another roar went up. "I assumed he hit it close at 17," said Jeff. He checked the scoreboard a minute later. Sure enough, his buddy had knocked it in and they were tied.

Sluman's second shot on the 18th came to rest 10 feet from the hole. "I hit the putt exactly the way I wanted, right line, right speed," he said. Wrong line, wrong speed. "As soon as I missed, I told my caddie we'd be in a playoff."

To make it so, Andrade had to follow up his pair of birdies with a monstrous "up and down" out of a greenside trap a little deeper than the Luray Caverns. "It was a blind shot and my lie was not that great, but I felt confident," said Billy. He had a tap-in for a par and a playoff.

It was back to the 17th, the par-3 over water and Andrade picked the right marker out of a hat and hit first. "It was the same shot I had hit about 20 minutes before," he reminded. He improved his effort by about three feet, the ball ending up seven feet from the hole.

"About a half-hour before, I had hit a shot into that green dead pin high," recalled Sluman. "I thought I hit the exact same shot, but maybe the wind kicked up." The ball hit a banking, two feet shy of the green and trickled back in the water. Andrade had his first victory on the tour.

"What can I say?" said Sluman, who boasts a best effort of second place at the Los Angeles Open and money winnings of $266,800 this season. In 15 tournaments and 56 rounds this year, Jeff has had 28 rounds under 70, including a 64-64-65 finish here.

"All I can assume is that next time it's going to be my time," said Sluman. There was no need for him to say if it wasn't in the cards for him to win, he would hope Andrade would score.

"It was difficult trying to win my first tournament playing against my best friend," said Billy.

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