Glover, Levin trying to move on from disappointment

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 8, 2015, 1:17 am

SAN DIEGO – Not every career follows the script. Spencer Levin and Lucas Glover know this.  

For every prospect that rockets to superstardom, there’s a can’t-miss kid who flames out.

For every major champion who goes on to capture multiple Grand Slam events, there is one who spends the rest of his competitive years searching.

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Levin seemed poised to take the next step in his career before a death in his family, then a fluky thumb injury.

Glover seemed poised to build on his U.S. Open victory, only to hit rock bottom with his putting and his game.

Now, both are among the seven players within a shot of the lead heading into the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, and there is a massive opportunity at stake – a chance to forever banish what has been a turbulent few years.

“There’s a saying that you hear a lot,” Glover said, “that when the Tour player is playing well, the golf seems so easy. And when you’re playing poorly, it seems so hard. That is confidence.”

And lately, it’s been in short supply.

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Start with Levin. He was the chain-smoking, swaggering 20-year-old who burst onto the national scene at the 2004 U.S. Open. His 13th-place finish at Shinnecock was the best Open finish by an amateur in 33 years, and he was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world, but professional success proved elusive.

Sure, he’s carved out a nice living for himself, earning nearly $6 million in 5 1/2 full seasons on Tour, but the 30-year-old has taken plenty of knocks over the past few years – probably too many for someone his age.  

After near-misses in Phoenix and Columbus, Levin was enjoying one of his best years on Tour in 2012 when he received news that his stepbrother, Blake, had died unexpectedly at the age of 28. Levin tried to play the following week, but he withdrew after an opening 80. The two had grown up together and were only six months apart. (Spencer's grandfather also died in 2012.)

Two days after the WD, on Sept. 5, Levin stopped smoking, cold turkey. To fans he was known mostly as the diminutive, cocky 20-something who would blow through a few packs per round, the smoke billowing under his visor. But since, Levin doesn’t spend much time in the gym, nor does he adhere to a strict diet, he wanted to “feel like at least I did good for myself.” So he quit.

There wasn’t a temptation to smoke because he wasn’t playing competitively. A few weeks after Blake’s death, while playing with friends, Levin felt something pop between his wrist and thumb. The pain was so intense that he couldn’t grip a club, and an MRI confirmed that he had torn a ligament in his left thumb. He underwent surgery and sat out eight months.

When he returned, his attitude was awful. He didn’t enjoy being out here.

“And that only got worse on my mind,” he said, “because I should enjoy playing golf. I’ve got a great job, and I do love what I do, but it kind of snowballed.

“I’m feeling like myself again and trying to make things a little easier.”

Entering this season with eight starts remaining on his major medical extension, Levin needed to earn $317,703 or 122.837 FedEx Cup points. An 8-foot par putt on the 72nd hole in Mexico – the final round before the Tour takes a seven-week winter break – secured full status for this season.

With the turmoil of the past few years behind him, maybe now is the time for Levin to fulfill the lofty expectations that were thrust upon him as a hotshot amateur.

“It’s a weird thing,” he said, “because people always say, ‘This guy should have won more.’ I never really believed in that. When you play competitive golf and you’re out there when it’s happening, when somebody says they didn’t reach their potential, who’s to say? Maybe that’s just how good that guy was, or there’s something that holds that guy back from not doing it.

“Relative to a lot of people it’s been good, and relative to a lot of people it hasn’t. It’s all timing. Maybe tomorrow will be a good day for me.”

There haven’t been many good days for Glover over the past few years.

Consider where he was in 2009: a U.S. Open champion, with $3.69 million in earnings and a top-10 spot on the money list.

“Sometimes it seems like yesterday,” he said of Bethpage, “and sometimes it seems like 20 years.”

Glover won again at Quail Hollow in 2011, but over the past 3 1/2 years he has combined for two top 10s and 44 missed cuts (73 starts).

His troubles can be traced to an ice-cold putter. In 2013, he was ranked 178th on Tour in strokes gained-putting. Last year, he was dead last, at No. 177,losing nearly a stroke and a half (1.472) to the field on the greens.

An epiphany came Tuesday of Humana week. Glover’s caddie, Don Cooper, suggested that his man widen his stance and hit putts, not stroke them – like in the old days. It worked, because Glover shot four rounds in the 60s and finished T-15 that week, his best result in 10 months.

Here at Torrey Pines, Glover hasn’t been spectacular on the greens, but it’s been plenty good enough. After a 5-for-14 effort off the tee on Thursday, his first stop after the round wasn’t to the putting green but to the range.

“My putter has bailed me out,” he said. “It’s the first time in a couple of years that I’ve been able to say that.”

Sunday is an important day for Glover, who is in the final year of his exemption for winning the Open. (An extra year was added for his ’11 Quail title.) Last year he was 185th in FedEx Cup earnings, and he needs to capitalize on the good weeks when they come.

When asked if there’s any added pressure this year, knowing that at age 35 he’s reached a critical juncture in his career, he said, “If I start thinking about that, you start thinking about having to make the cut and having to make a check and you forget about winning golf tournaments. Every guy shows up on Monday trying to win. That’s the mindset I have to have. I can’t think about it any other way.”

Because there is still plenty of time to rewrite the script.

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Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.

Bernhard Langer did not.

The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.

"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."

Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.

"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.

As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.

"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."

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Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

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Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”