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.”
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.