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Jeff Sluman aiming to play way into Ryder Cup

If they gave Ryder Cup points for hot streaks, Jeff Sluman would be a strong contender for captain Curtis Strange's U.S. team.

In his last three starts, Sluman has won a playoff for the B.C. Open, finished fourth at the John Deere Classic and tied for 10th at the Greater Milwaukee Open.

This collection of top-10 finishes has moved him to 18th on the Ryder Cup points list.

Two events are left before the 12-man team is finalised with the addition of the two captain's choices.

All the contenders still searching for crucial points are at the Buick Open this week, played at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club 60 miles north of Detroit.

Of the golfers with a realistic chance -- those currently ranked eighth through 27th on the table -- all but three are in action at the Buick, where 150 points await the winner.

The final tournament before Strange's selection is next week's PGA Championship in Atlanta, where points are doubled owing to its major status.

All six of the golfers between David Toms in 13th place and Sluman would be Ryder Cup rookies. Like Sluman, they believe their best chance is to play their way onto the team.

"I'm not trying to blow my chances here by saying this and I'm not saying Curtis won't pick me, but since I've never been on the team they usually like you to play your way on the first time," Sluman said.

"But as far as what it would mean to me, it would be unbelievable to represent my country in the Ryder Cup.

"I think that besides winning a major that's probably the most important thing to get on your resume."

Sluman, the 1988 PGA Champion, has another motive. A major victory is a must to stand any chance of captaining the United States somewhere down the road.

"It certainly would be a huge bonus for me to get on the Ryder Cup team and then, if that happens, maybe in the future they'd consider me to be a captain, which would also be a great honour," he said.

"It's important to go out and get prepared this week and next, play well and see where the cards fall.

"It would sure be a lot easier to play your way on and not have to worry about trying to get picked."

Sluman is having the kind of year which warrants serious consideration as a captain's pick. He's got seven top-10 finishes and 12 in the top 25, leaving him 15th on the money list with $1,599,112 in earnings.

He's also having a banner year statistically and, most importantly, is leading the putting averages. There is no more important element in the pressure cooker of the Ryder Cup than putting excellence.

Sluman is also fifth in the birdie averages (4.32), eighth in scoring average and ninth in the all-around ranking.

"I've had a pretty good year all along," he said. "Golf is a very funny game. My buddy calls it an infinite game because every shot, no matter what you are doing, is different.

"Sometimes your good play isn't reflected with good finishes and other times it is.

"Right now I'm not only playing well tee-to-green but I'm scoring well. I'm putting very good and just doing all the right things you need to do to stay near the top or win a golf tournament."

Furthermore, Sluman's victory at the B.C. Open over Paul Gow finally ended his 0-6 playoff record.

"My playoff record before that spoke for itself," Sluman said. "I didn't want to be known as 007 out here. I got that monkey off my back."

 


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