PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Lucas Glover, your square-shouldered U.S. Open champion, took a moment to consider the question, eyebrows bunched low for emphasis. “Are you going to hit driver at the reachable par-4 fourth hole this week?” a member of his entourage asked Tuesday morning at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“Not much use,” he finally offers. “You’ve got tall grass, bunkers and the Pacific Ocean down there.”
The simple and utterly unclouded logic is almost immediately broken, however. “Check it out,” he smiles imitating a fellow player’s deliberate walk to perfection, “I love that.”
Welcome to the dichotomy of Glover. The dulcet tones can be misleading, to say nothing of his on-the-job intensity. Some confuse southern for slow, quiet for content. Some never figure it out.
Glover is smart well beyond his degree in communications would ever suggest and thinks faster than he plays. “Few people can do a New York Times crossword puzzle in one sitting,” said Mac Barnhardt, Glover’s manager and friend with Crown Sports.
He’s a lifelong New York Yankees fan, an avid Grateful Deadhead, owns a wallet that looks like a hamburger and has a sneaky good sense of humor. He’s also a tad forgetful.
As his reign as U.S. Open champion was coming to a close in recent weeks he knew he needed to ship the national championship hardware back to the U.S. Golf Association. He forgot.
“They called,” he said sheepishly, “said they’d like to have that back.”
USGA types should relax, the trophy is in the mail. But his forgetful slip seems to have Freudian undertones. If winning the U.S. Open, dubbed golf’s toughest test, is the hardest of all of the game’s exams, giving it back is no easy feat either.
It seems strangely apropos that perhaps the only ingredient missing from Glover’s Grand Slam tool box was patience. The man from Greenville, S.C., plays fast and, before last year’s Open, could get sideways just as fast if things didn’t go according to script on the golf course.
“After I doubled (bogey) the first (hole last year at Bethpage), if I had done that two or three years earlier I wouldn’t have recovered and probably wouldn’t have made the cut,” Glover said.
The U.S. Open that would never end was won by the player whose mind never stops. Yet there is a price to be paid for success. After winning their first major many players become complacent. Glover became nostalgic.
Glover wanted more because, all along, he expected to win a major. His jones for more major glory was only compounded by a near-miss at the PGA Championship (fifth) and a slow start to his 2010 campaign. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, yet with every missed opportunity his new-found patience was put to the test.
“Expectations that came with the Open win put a strain on that,” Barnhardt said.
It’s a testament to Glover’s personality that he remains virtually unchanged as a person and a player since his 2009 breakthrough. His practice round partners, his routine, his preparation all remain the same.
He readied for this week’s Open much like he did last year’s edition, six days at “Camp Frederica,” a combination physical training-golf-fishing week held at Frederica Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.
Each morning the man who appreciates punctuality as much as a well-played punch shot would work out with trainer Randy Myers, 6:30 a.m. sharp, then breakfast followed by lessons on the practice tee with swing coach Mike Taylor, a quick round of golf and fishing. Lots of fishing.
Point is an Open title hasn’t changed Glover. As Davis Love III says he wouldn’t know how.
“Didn’t see the point. Why would I?” Glover said. “Davis (Love) told me something important, you won playing like you. Why change?”
But taken to the extreme, the man who won the Bethpage Open with the poise of the Dalai Lama isn’t, by his own admission, a patient person. In many ways the same calm that lifted him to Grand Slam glory is the one thing that has made everything post-Bethpage a challenge. Patience on the golf course and the patience needed to play golf at the highest levels are not mutually exclusive. One begets the other.
“Patience is not a one-and-done skill. You are constantly relearning that,” said Dr. Morris Pickens, Glover’s sports psychologist who outlined Glover’s rise to Open fame in his recent book “Learn to win a major.”
But it is a remembered skill. After starting his final round at this year’s Players Championship 4 over through six holes Glover played his last 12 holes in 6 under to finish alone in third place, his best post of the year.
The thoughtful side of Glover knows the process takes time, that there is no substitute for experience. The Deadhead with the Cheshire grin, however, has just a single day to enjoy the spoils of a reigning champion. Come to think of it, wonder if the USGA has checked the mail?