Long Island Long Shot

By Rex HoggardJune 22, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' The champion of this Peoples Open is as human as they come. Reserved almost to distraction Lucas Glover has an affinity for reading, crossword puzzles, all things Clemson and now, after more stop-and-goes than rush hour on the Long Island Expressway, major championships.
He came by it honestly, as they might say in Greenville, S.C., where Glover spends time when hes not fishing or cheering on his Tigers or dismantling U.S. Open golf courses. He is the way his grandfather, former NFL player Dick Hendley, taught him ' tough, polite and, above all else, forthright.
Even with a two-stroke lead and the type of scenario players dream about, two putts from 20 feet to win his national championship, the hat remained pulled tight on his forehead and the focus remained on the task at hand. Even when he completed the marathon he remained reserved, keeping his celebration to a routine reach for his golf ball and a quick embrace with his caddie. Just the way Hendley taught him, no bragging, no fist pumps, just honesty.
Lucas Glover shakes his head and smiles after tapping in his par putt on the 72nd hole for his first major victory. (Getty Images)
I havent had a lot chances to practice (a victory celebration), said Glover, who posted a 3-over 73 on Monday to close the Open that would never end. Only got to celebrate once (2005 Funai Classic at Disney).
History will note that three players marched to the 17th tee with a shot at Open glory and only one, Glover, made par with the best shot I hit all week, a towering 8-iron he held perfectly against a cool wind.
Lucas Glover didnt come to Bethpage looking to make friends, but whether the NYC faithful realize it or not they have a new rooting favorite. In time they will discover that Glovers Southern exterior is as paper-thin as the cover of all those books he pores through.
Hes a lifelong Yankees fan because growing up Don Mattingly was his idol: I liked em when they werent doing so hot. Hes in the lottery to buy three seats from the old Yankee Stadium and was kicking himself all week that he couldnt slip into the Bronx to see the new version. But then, he had business to take care of
Business that began on Monday with a light-hearted game with Zach Johnson. Heres the deal, each player has four do-overs, meaning that if Johnson hits to 6 feet Glover can make him replay the shot. With a swing that was as sound as they come for three days, Glover didnt need any freebies during the tournament proper.
He opened with 69 between monsoons, scorched the fearsome Black with 64 in Round 2 and set up Mondays march with a gutsy 70 that looked like 80 through nine holes. But that would have been the old Glover.
That front-nine 38 to start his third round Sunday? Fuggedaboutit, as they say here in the heart of civilization. That double bogey to start his week? The old Glover may have headed for LaGuardia. Even that 2 over through five holes to start his final turn would have rendered the old Glover an afterthought
But that was before a disgruntled young man decided hed had enough. He shut it down, golf wise, after the BMW Championship in September. Went home to Greenville, fished, ate breakfast with his grandparents, fished some more, anything but golf.
I was too hard on myself and just had a bad attitude when it wasnt going right, said Glover, who finished with a 4-under 276 total, the lowest winning total since 2004. The patience issues and the bad attitude was expectations through the roof and not getting results.
Late last November on a Sea Island, Ga., pond one of Glovers closest confidants questioned his decision to go underground, but only for a moment.
He was so calm. He wasnt changing lures every three casts. There was peace, said Mac Barnhardt, who runs Crown Sports the firm that represents Glover. I knew right there he had done the right thing. I wont doubt him again.
Neither will the golf world. Not after Glover, one of the Tours most likeable players with a reputation for being hard on himself, did what major champions do ' dominate the closing nine.
He made just two bogeys all week on the inward loop and was 6 under par over his final three laps on the Blacks final turn.
Those pursuing Glover were not as proficient at crunch time.
Phil Mickelson, playing on emotion and lifted by a partisan crowd, played Nos. 12 and 13 in 3 under on Monday to pull into a tie with Glover, but he closed with bogeys at the 15th and 17th to post his fifth U.S. Open runner-up.
It was a lot of ups and down for me, said Mickelson, who was headed home for a vacation before his wife, Amy, begins treatment for breast cancer July 1. Kind of an emotional four days or five days. Im disappointed but now that its over Ive got more important things going on.
David Duval was slightly better, birdieing three straight to join the lead before he was undone at the 17th. Ricky Barnes, bogey at 13. Englishman Ross Fisher, missteps at Nos. 15 and 17.
But it was Tiger Woods woes late that are the most confounding.
In consecutive majors, it has been late-round miscues that have derailed Woods. At Augusta National he played the finisher in 3 over and closed his week with consecutive bogeys.
It is a measure of the unpredictability at the U.S. Open ' a championship that featured just the fourth player to ever reach double digits under par in its 109 year history ' that Woods was under par for just one hole (No. 14 on Monday) all week. He missed the 15th green long with his best swing of the week, made bogey and, ironically, ruined any chance he had to collect major No. 15.
Couldnt believe I hit it that far, said Woods, done in, ultimately, by his opening 74. Its pretty frustrating.
The games ultimate closer has blown more saves of late than besieged Yankees flame thrower Mariano Rivera.
Equally shocking was that arguably the games most demanding test went pushover. For four days Mother Nature washed every ounce of excitement into Long Island Sound. On Monday, golf battled back. Welcome to NYC Black & Blue where par suddenly became a good score and traffic was moving in only one direction ' south.
The guy who won, however, was made for Bethpage, be it rain lashed or rock hard. In 2002 Glover carded rounds of 74-77 to miss the cut at the first Peoples Open and stewed all the way back across the Mason-Dixon Line.
When he left in 02 on Friday he was kicking himself in the butt, said Glovers caddie, Don Cooper. This place just sets up perfect for him.
Bethpage fits his eye so well, swing coach Mike Taylor didnt even talk about his mans swing or mechanics as they readied for Glovers fourth U.S. Open. Attitude and patience win Opens and Glover had a jump start on both.
Hed finished runner-up at Mays Quail Hollow Championship, a mini-major on a major-quality golf course, and third at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, the West Coast Open bookend to Bethpage.
When I saw him on Monday I saw his attitude and how much fun he was having. I just let him alone, Taylor said.
More than any other player Glover overcame the adversity that defined this Open. He read more books than Oprah, took his wife, Jennifer, to dinner in Manhattan and lunch in the Hamptons, didnt fret over delays and disjointed rounds. All the things Open champions do.
He also kept his emotions in check, at least until hed weathered five days of rain and mud and knee-high fescue. He remained focused, just the way Hendley would have wanted, until a reporter asked late Monday about his former teacher, the late Dick Harmon who passed away in 2006.
He always told me I was good enough, said Glover through choked emotion.
On Monday at Bethpage, Glover proved it.
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