As usual, the Kmart Greater Greensboro ( N.C.) Open didn't officially start until Sunday. That's when frigid weather arrived, and once again, somebody came from nowhere to steal the golf tournament.
In this year's edition it was Jim Gallagher Jr. making up seven strokes in rain and 47� temperatures to win by one shot over Peter Jacobsen and Jeff Sluman. Gallagher made five birdies in the last eight holes at Forest Oaks Country Club, finishing at 14-under 274. He had been done for 45 minutes and was waiting on the driving range. staying loose, when Jacobsen bogeyed the 72nd hole and Sluman burned the edge of the cup with a birdie chip that would have forced a playoff.
When PGA Tour official Ben Nelson told Gallagher how Jacobsen and Sluman had fared on the 18th green, the winner's reaction was hardly that of someone who had just been handed $270,000 and a trip to next year's Masters. "It was kind of a weird feeling," Gallagher said. "I was kidding Ben. I hugged him on national television the last time this happened, and he got a lot of grief for that."
The 34-year-old Gallagher was referring to his celebration when he won the 1993 Tour Championship. That day Greg Norman had played the role of Jacobsen and Sluman, bogeying two of the last three holes at the Olympic Club in San Francisco to blow a lead and hand over to Gallagher the winner's check for $540,000. At Olympic, Gallagher shot 69 to come from three shots back. This time he shot 66.
"I needed some weather to catch up," Gallagher said after the round. He definitely got some as the temperature dropped nearly 40 degrees from the previous day.
"This weather reminds me of home—Portland, Oregon," said Jacobsen.
"I almost felt on 15, after it rained on 14, that it was going to snow," said Sluman.
Sunday comebacks have become part of Greensboro's mystique. In 1990 Steve Elkington went out early and shot 66 to win and was only shown live on the CBS telecast playing his approach to 18 and putting out. The next year Mark Brooks equaled Elkington's seven-stroke comeback, shooting a 64 to tie Gene Sauers, then winning in a playoff. In 1992 Davis Love III shot 62 on Sunday to come from three strokes off the pace to win by six over John Cook. This tournament's history for the dramatic was not lost on Sluman, whose only Tour victory came at the 1988 PGA Championship al Oak Tree in Edmond, Okla., where he shot 65 in the final round to steal the tournament from Paul Azinger.
"There have been a lot of guys who have come flying out of the pack to win at Greensboro," said Sluman, who led at 15 under after three rounds. "Next year I'll have to try that strategy."
Sluman made only three bogeys in the first 54 holes but had six more on Sunday on his way to a 74. He was trying to duplicate what his friend Bob Tway had accomplished the week before at the MCI Heritage Classic at Hilton Head Island, S.C. There Tway had snapped a five-year winless streak with a playoff victory over David Frost and Nolan Henke. Sluman was among the first to call Tway to congratulate him. " Bob Tway was in a dark, dark hole but found his way out," said Sluman. "I'm very, very good friends with Bob. It was inspiring to see what he did. I was trying to draw on that."