When Lucas Glover hit his approach on the 16th hole to 4 feet Sunday afternoon in the third round of the U.S. Open, the applause was minimal. Ditto 10 minutes later when he drained the birdie putt to pull within a shot of Ricky Barnes lead.
The New Yorkers are knowledgeable and theyre passionate, but there isnt a discernible reason why their interest overwhelmingly lies with Barnes over Glover.
Perhaps it is Glovers demeanor, which at times can come across as businesslike, uninterested and somewhat edgy. Theres that cold stare, the way he wears his hat low on his head and the quick walk. Throw all the elements together and they dont exactly scream fun.
The perception of Lucas Glover and the reality of Lucas Glover couldnt be any different, said longtime Clemson coach Larry Penley.
Reality is that Glover, as much as most anyone else on the PGA Tour, is so well-rounded that people can relate to him for one reason or another. Growing up in South Carolina is where he developed his distinct ' but not obnoxious ' drawl, his love for fishing and his love for sports, namely Clemson football.
But while you may expect to see him roll up to the golf course in a pickup truck thats blaring George Strait, he prefers to drive a luxury car and listen to Sinatra. Glover has read four books during the myriad rain delays this week, yet is bummed that he hasnt reached his normal average of six per week.
Hes a complex guy, he has a lot of interests and hes a student about everything he does, Penley said Sunday from his summer golf camp in South Carolina. He loves Clemson and is probably their biggest fan. I bet he knows the football depth chart better than our coaching staff. Hes just a real neat guy.
Knowing the name of Clemsons third-string quarterback isnt going to help Glover much in his attempt Monday to hang with Barnes, who is built more like Clemsons linebacker than punter. What will help is that hes been in the heat of battle more often, having won once on both the PGA and Nationwide tours.
But the U.S. Open has always been Glovers bugaboo. That hes never made the cut in three previous Opens, yet is tied for the lead with 17 holes remaining, can be attributed to putting and patience, something he worked on diligently with his Sea Island (Ga.) swing guru Mike Taylor.
Glover, 29, has always been a guy who fought his emotions and had difficulty focusing on the task. More than eight years ago during a college tournament Glover walked over to yours truly and said, you know how much fun I could have with a fishing pole right now? That wouldnt normally be considered an odd conversation, except that in this instance, Glover was standing on the 17th tee (surrounded by water) and had a one-shot lead.
Renewed focus and a new flatstick have proved to be an impressive combination for Glover this year, which translated to this week. He switched to a new Nike prototype putter during the offseason and his putting improved overnight. Glover is ranked 23rd in putts per round and 32nd in putting average, a huge leap from 2008 where he was 116th and 107th respectively. His 28.31 putts per round in 2009 are more than a full putt lower than last years 29.46 average. And hes ranked seventh in putts made from between 15-20 feet, a distance constantly faced in a U.S. Open.
Poise and putting have led to improved results as Glover has made 11 of 14 cuts and tied for third at the Buick Invitational and tied for second at Quail Hollow, a course regarded good enough to host an Open.
That same poise paid huge dividends midway through the third round when Glover found himself six shots behind Barnes and leaking oil after he played a three-hole stretch in 4 over. But he birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 16 and pulled to within a shot of the lead. Barnes then bogeyed the first hole to begin the final round and is tied with Glover.
Hes won a tournament and hes been in contention a lot, but this was his next step, Penley said. Its fun to watch him in this environment. He seems composed, his swing looks great and hes handled it really well.
If it continues Monday here at Bethpage Black, the galleries wont have a choice but to applaud.
I feel like I try to be nice to everybody and hopefully they are nice back, Glover said.
Whats not to like New York?