Three strokes back of the lead, Jeff Sluman’s chances were slim…
By: Josh Morris – The 1988 PGA Championship marked the 70th Anniversary of the event and this year the setting was Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma. All the regular names populated the leaderboard like past champions Raymond Floyd and David Graham but it was the consistent play of Jeff Sluman that outlasted the field. The one player who took the outright lead at the end of three rounds was none other than reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, Paul Azinger who was -9 after 36 holes. As the galleries started to amass for Azinger…Sluman was merely an afterthought.
Closely following Azinger for the first two rounds, was club pro Jay Overton who shot an opening 68-66–Overton made headlines as his 134 was the lowest by a club pro in the 70 years of the PGA Championship. Overton joked saying. “By God I made a cut on the PGA Tour…I can hit the ball in the water six times tomorrow on the first hole and still be happy.” While Overton did just fine on the first hole the next day, he could only muster a 76…a ten stroke swing from just a day before.
By God I made a cut on the PGA Tour…I can hit the ball in the water six times tomorrow on the first hole and still be happy.
— Jay Overton, Oak Tree Club Pro
A daring comeback for Sluman
The stage was set on the final day as Jeff Sluman sat three strokes back of the 54 hole leader Paul Azinger. Azinger showed up hot as he birdied his first hole of the final round, Sluman countered by birdieing the second. Tides changed when the players arrived at the par-5 fifth hole when Sluman amazingly holed out for eagle. Azinger would falter by bogeying the next two holes placing Sluman one stroke ahead of Azinger for the sole lead. That would mark the turning point of the round as over the next nine holes Azinger played even while Sluman was -3 recording four birdies in the process.
That would prove to be too much for Azinger even after birdieing two of his last three holes was defeated by red hot Jeff Sluman. This marked the first of Sluman’s six PGA Tour victories and his final round of 65 tied with the 1979 PGA Championship winner David Graham. Sluman wouldnt win again until he was 39, and began to flourish on the PGA Tour in his forties recording five more victories.
Josh Morris is the Editor of Golf History Today. A proud USGA Volunteer and golf enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys being a weekend caddie as well as playing as much as he can.