A familiar duel


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Tuesday at Quail Hollow Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd dueled Davis Love III and Charles Warren in a friendly match, part of an ongoing bout that stretches back decades.

“Jonathan birdied the last to tie it,” Warren said in even tones. “Still hot about that.”

It likely gave Warren little solace that Glover and Byrd could have clipped any combination of PGA Tour two-balls this week – and did.

On a golf course fit for a major and against a leaderboard straight out of Grand Slam storage a pair of major players needed extra frames to settle things, with Glover edging his Clemson stable mate with a par on the first extra hole for his first victory since the 2009 U.S. Open.

It was a familiar outcome for the duo, who have been trading birdies and trying to get the best of each other since their junior days.

“In the South Carolina State Amateur one year we dueled it out all 18 holes,” Byrd recalled. “He won three years in a row, so obviously same outcome; Lucas won then. Lucas won today.”

But this one was anything but preordained.

Entering the Wells Fargo Championship Glover had missed three consecutive cuts and had posted just six top-10 finishes since Bethpage. In short, the swagger had faded, however slightly, and his soaring draws had been flying far too straight.

In the offseason Glover set about retooling his once-simple action with swing coach Mike Taylor but progress had been slow, if at all. His Tuesday draw against Love and Warren may have been worth a few style points, but there was little reason to have high expectations.

“As of Tuesday afternoon it was still kind of a struggle,” Glover admitted following his third Tour victory. “But I found something Tuesday afternoon.”

The key, as simple as it sounds, was to square the clubface at address. The result was four rounds in the 60s (67-68-69-69), the first time ever at the Wells Fargo, and an afternoon two-ball with Byrd. But he had predicted that.

As Byrd and Glover were warming up for Round 3 on Saturday the latter smiled, “Let’s get a tee time around 2 o’clock tomorrow.” He was only off by five hours, but it was worth the delay.

Playing in the group in front of Byrd, who began the final round with a one-stroke lead over Pat Perez, Glover birdied Nos. 7 and 8 to pull within a stroke of the top spot.

At the par-5 10th Glover walked in a 22 footer for eagle to move one clear of Byrd. What transpired the rest of the way probably looked a lot like that South Carolina Amateur, with the two trading birdies and bogeys with equal abandon.

Glover, who won a U.S. Open with his driver, rode his short game to Quail Hollow gold, putting on a clinic over the final three holes that would have made the late Seve Ballesteros, who was honored with a moment of silence midway through Sunday’s final round, proud.

Quail Hollow’s famed “green mile” turned out to be the longest mile for Glover – an up-and-down from behind the green at No. 16, a two-putt from 75 feet at the 17th and a nervy, dry-mouthed par at the last.

Clinging to a one-stroke lead Glover pulled his drive into a fan’s hip pocket, or so it seemed, at the last, flirted with Rule 18-2b (see Simpson, Webb) and managed a fist pump when his 10 footer for par dived into the cup.

Minutes later Byrd followed him into the hole for a birdie and the two marched back down the par 4 finishing hole. In OT, however, Byrd ran out of magic, hitting his drive into a bunker right of the fairway and narrowly missing a creek with his approach, leaving Glover a two-putt for victory that on Tuesday didn’t seem likely.

“He's had a difficult time the last year now, you know, off the golf course,” said Byrd, who closed with 72 to tie Glover at 15 under. “He's had to play through some things, and for him to come back and play as well as he did this week . . . I'm really proud of him.”

If Glover, whose three Tour tilts have all come from behind, doubted his ability to climb out of the depths of a misfiring game, those who know him never did.

“The dude’s got so much talent, he’s making up shots as he goes along,” Warren said. “He’s a pure athlete.”

If Tuesday’s epiphany gave him some much-needed confidence, his second-round 68 was a reason to forget the last 22 months. “He has that look in his eye,” Glover’s caddie, Don Cooper, said on Friday. “He’s hungry and it’s not for food.”

Glover’s victory capped a week filled with all manner of subtexts, silly and otherwise.

On Tuesday news swept over Quail Hollow that Rory Sabbatini had been involved in kafuffle with Sean O’Hair last week in New Orleans and would be suspended. He was not, at least according to the Tour’s “you can ask but we’re not telling” policy, and he closed with a round-of-the-day 65 to finish alone in third place at 14 under.

Perez, who ballooned to a closing 75 and was paired with Sabbatini and O’Hair in New Orleans, seemed to put the dust up in perspective.

“Sean O’Hair is one of the greatest guys in the world. I love playing with him,” Perez said. “And Rory has his moments. I’ve always gotten along with Rory, and I know how to deal with him and stuff like that.”

On Wednesday news from Spain that Ballesteros was struggling in his duel with a cancerous brain tumor further cast a pale over an event that is viewed, at least by many Tour frat brothers, as a bonifide mid-major.

“It's a sad day,” Ballesteros protégé Sergio Garcia said a day later after the legend had died. “We're all feeling for Seve's family. He's been suffering for quite a while now, so probably better that he's resting now.”

Players and caddies wore black ribbons to honor Ballesteros and the moment of silence, which came at 3:08 p.m. (ET), also served to give fans a respite from a revolving leaderboard.

Fittingly, it was two of their own that finished the story – one dressed in pink paints for Mother’s Day and the other sporting a beard that is on the Grizzly Adams side of rustic.

On the eve of Sunday’s fireworks Glover gathered with some friends at a house adjacent Quail Hollow’s 15th hole. Included in that group was a collection of Clemson fraternity brothers who began chanting “fear the beard” and “Go Tigers,” a call that’s been missing from Tour circles for some time.

At golf’s “Grand Slam light,” however, the hobbled guy in the red shirt, not to mention world No. 1 Lee Westwood, may have been the only thing missing. But that’s a debate for next week.