Break for son's birth revitalized Glover's game

By Will GrayOctober 2, 2015, 7:06 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Not all breaks are created equal.

Some players take a few weeks off to avoid burnout, or perhaps rest for a long stretch ahead. Others step away when things aren’t going right, eager to rediscover a few answers.

But sometimes, circumstances dictate a player’s schedule and force a competitive hiatus. That’s what happened to Lucas Glover this summer, and it led to an improbably swift turnaround for the former U.S. Open champion.

Having last battled for his PGA Tour card in 2004, Glover entered the homestretch of this season knowing that his various exemptions from past wins were about to expire. The time had come to produce some results, but his game simply wasn’t there.

As July came to a close, Glover had missed four of his last five cuts. He hadn’t played a final round in nearly two months, and he hadn’t cracked the top 25 since April. But his wife Krista was pregnant with the couple’s second child, and Lucas Jr. was born on July 31 – requiring Glover to put golf on the back burner.

The shift in perspective that accompanies the birth of a child turned out to be just what he needed to spark a change.

“I was forced to have two weeks off. If he hadn’t come until December, I’d have been playing and probably banging my head against the wall,” Glover said. “Those two weeks off, being with the family and still working, I just started seeing some things that were encouraging. So that was probably a blessing.”


Web.com Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Glover returned to action with a T-18 finish at the Wyndham Championship in August, and he hasn’t looked back. After clinching his card with three straight top-25 finishes to open the Finals, he is again in contention at the Web.com Tour Championship. Glover followed an opening 64 with a 3-under 67 Friday at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass, and he trails Emiliano Grillo by one shot.

“I started to see some flashes with the putter, just at home. I got a little help with my ball striking and things started to turn around,” he said. “It’s been a good ride, been happy the last couple days and the last few weeks.”

Glover has struggled mightily on the greens in recent years, especially from short range, and his game barely resembled that of the man who lifted the U.S. Open trophy at Bethpage Black. His world ranking, which peaked at No. 15, slipped as far as No. 634 in January.

Glover is the lone major champion teeing it up this year in the Finals. Grillo was just a teenager when he watched Glover’s breakthrough win in 2009, and the Argentine was surprised to see him back in a position where his playing status was at stake.

“He’s a great player. It’s a shame he’s trying to get his card back and playing here. He shouldn’t be,” Grillo said. “If I get paired with him, it’s going to be a great thing for me. I’m going to try to learn what’s so special about him. He’s got a U.S. Open, it’s a big thing.”

For his part, Glover sees pluses and minuses when comparing his game to that of 2009. At age 35, he feels he is a smarter player now, although he admits that his wedge play and pitching are not what they once were.

“That was six or seven years ago. I’m not the same person,” he said. “None of us are. Every cell in our body is different.”

Then there is the putting – an ever-present thorn in his side – as Glover has ranked 177th or worse each of the last three seasons in strokes gained putting.

But with recent rains slowing the greens at TPC Sawgrass, Glover has rolled in 12 birdies through 36 holes and shows no signs of the short misses that have haunted him in the past.

Glover has offered no excuses for his poor play. He has owned his recent struggles, adopting a workmanlike attitude that has paid dividends amid the make-or-break pressures of this four-week stretch.

He has also been buoyed by the renewed perspective that came with the birth of his son. 

“As bad as the golf was, I’ve got it pretty good,” he said. “I have a beautiful wife and two great kids, and we’re all healthy. Lows on the golf course don’t compute for me.”

Once again invigorated and playing with a champion’s confidence, Glover enters the weekend with a chance for his first win since 2011.

Funny what a little break can do.

Getty Images

Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

Getty Images

One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

Getty Images

DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

Getty Images

Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.