- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

FARMINGDALE, N.Y.

It would be easy to say the 109th U.S. Open ended with a major whimper and a minor winner.

It would be easy to blame Monday’s epic anticlimax on a championship that was blighted from the start by lousy weather, a lopsided draw, halting play and spongy, sodden greens.

It would be easy to mock major maiden Lucas Glover (4-under 276) for having the audacity to murder the three best stories on the leader board at Bethpage Black.

Going into Monday’s delayed finale, the 29-year-old Glover was little more than an anonymous PGA Tour grinder. He brought a lightweight resume to the heavyweight event: world No. 71, one career victory (2005 Funai Classic), zero top-10 finishes in 11 major starts.

Before Monday’s finale, Glover was a total major stranger and an easy target. He always has been known as a serious stick, a great ball striker and one of the game’s best total drivers, a stat combining length and accuracy. But he also had a reputation as a guy who couldn’t finish. His final-round scoring average was 87th on tour (71.18), considerably higher than his overall scoring average (69.91). Until Monday, his career as a closer had mirrored his carriage: slumped, almost defeatist. Glover has the posture of a question mark, not a champion.

How could a man who looks like he just went 12 rounds with Ali possibly win the national championship?

Well, he did, and he held off golf’s Ali, Frazier and Foreman to do it.

“I’ve worked on it, and my attitude’s better. If something bad happens, I let it go,” Glover said after besting sentimental favorite Phil Mickelson (278), renaissance man David Duval (278) and golf goliath Tiger Woods (280) in the back-nine crucible at Bethpage. “I didn’t know [how I would respond to the pressure]. I’ve never been there in a major. And maybe that was motivation for me to prove it to myself that I did belong.”

He certainly didn’t look like it during the first nine holes of his final round, hemorrhaging strokes along with Sunday night co-leader Ricky Barnes. The pair began the day at 7 under, five clear of Mickelson and Duval and seven ahead of Woods. But after Barnes staggered to an opening-nine 40 and Glover to a 38, the only question seemed to be which of the titan trio would overwhelm the odd couple.

Woods took the first pop, posting back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 to dip below par for the first time all week. But just when it looked like the 14-time major champion might storm back from the wrong side of the draw and a terrible putting week to pilfer the Open, his Black course nemesis bit him again. Tiger hit a 5-iron he dubbed the best shot he had hit all week directly over the pin at the 15th and into a spotty lie, short-sided behind the steeply sloping green. His pitch was heavy, overly conservative, and his 10-footer for par never scared the cup.

The bogey dropped him to 1 over for the tournament and 4 over at the treacherous 15th. He then cemented his fate - and perhaps the worst putting week of his major career - by missing midrange birdie putts on each of the last three holes.

“I striped it this week,” said a steaming Woods, doomed by his balky putter and opening-round 74. “I hit it just like I did at Memorial, and unfortunately I didn’t make anything.”

Mickelson was the next to fall. The entire state showed up to cheer on Lefty’s bid to earn his wife, Amy, golf’s ultimate get-well gift. And when he made an eagle at No. 13 to reach 4 under and match Glover, it seemed fate was eager to oblige. But then Mickelson remembered who and where he was, tugging par putts from inside eight feet on Nos. 15 and 17 to become the first five-time U.S. Open bridesmaid in history.

“This is now my fifth second,” a despondent Mickelson said. “I don’t know where to go with this, because I want to win this tournament badly.”

Maybe too badly.

Then came Duval, rebounding from seven years of irrelevance and a triple bogey at No. 3 to post three straight birdies (Nos. 14-16) and reach 3 under. When Glover bogeyed the diabolical 15th behind him, suddenly the 37-year-old Duval was tied for the lead. Surely he would save the tournament. Surely the drooping Glover would crack in the face of a heroic charge from the stoic former No. 1.

Nope. Glover calmly hit a driver and an 8-iron to six feet on No. 16 and dead-centered the birdie putt, while Duval was following directly in Phil’s footsteps with a short approach and short-range par miss at 17. Suddenly, the lead was two strokes with two to play, and the Open was Glover’s to lose.

There was no artistry in his final two pars, but there was plenty of smarts. Glover fought his nerves with two steer-pulled approaches and a pair of lag-happy two-putts sandwiched around a very un-Van de Veldian 5-iron off the 18th tee.

“I dreamed about it as a kid, and I pulled it off. Here I stand,” Glover said. “It’s an honor to be on the trophy with names such as that. I hope I don’t downgrade it or anything with my name on there.”

Bethpage behaved like anything but a U.S. Open course, but that’s not Glover’s fault. He came up with the goods, while the greats around him impaled themselves on their putters. Forget the guilt, Clemson, and hoist that cup.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide