Slocum on road to regaining form from successful 2010 season

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Hi! Do you know me?

I have won an event on the PGA Tour each of the last two years, including the 2009 Barclays during the FedEx Cup playoffs.

I was one of the most consistent players on the tour last year, making 23 of 25 cuts.

This week, I am playing in my second straight WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

Who am I?

You might scroll through a long list of guesses before arriving at Heath Slocum, yet that’s exactly who is being talked about in the above description.

Slocum is somewhat of an under-the-radar player. Pretty amazing for a guy who has four career PGA Tour wins and more than $14 million in earnings.

Last year was arguably the best of his career. He posted a victory (McGladrey Classic), five total top 10s and nine total top 25s while earning a career-high $2.38 million.

“Really, it just kind of started at The Barclays, because I really didn’t play great up until then,” Slocum told at the Greenbrier Classic about what launched his big 2010. “I finally started making some putts. … When I putted well, I was in contention and I won.

“That’s what I’ve been lacking a little bit this year. But the putter is starting to come around, so that’s the main thing I’ve been looking for.”

Indeed Slocum’s 2011 has not mirrored his remarkable 2010. He’s made only 12 of 21 cuts, and in the first two months of the season, he had more missed cuts than he had all of last year.

His results have been better of late. After missing the cut at the Byron Nelson, he has made his last six in a row, including a T11 at the U.S. Open. It was his second-best career finish in a major after his T9 at the 2008 U.S. Open.

This week, Bridgestone is the second stop in a tough three-week stretch for the 37-year-old. He made his debut at Firestone Country Club a year ago and finished a respectable T39 (1 over par).

Next up will be the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Slocum has never finished higher than 22nd in seven career appearances in the season’s final major – though he has missed the cut only twice and never finished lower than T47 in the other five.

“A lot of it is just mentally,” said Slocum about his approach to the stretch that started last week at Greenbrier. “A lot of it is just going in with a good, positive attitude and just kind of maintain that and have patience.”

Firestone, playing at around 7,400 yards, presents a challenge for Slocum, who ranks No. 157 on the tour in driving distance at 281.5 yards. He’ll likely have a lot of long approaches, so his iron play will
have to be crisp.

When he does get on the green, his mercurial putting will need to be at its best. Once the ball starts rolling the wrong way at Firestone, a round can get away in a hurry.

“It comes back to scoring,” said Slocum matter-of-factly, “short clubs and making putts.”

Slocum might not be among the favorites in Akron this week. With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy et al in the field, he’ll probably go under the radar.

But if he does get the putter going, he might get noticed when it counts: on Sunday.

— Chuck Curti

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