FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Lucas Glover teed off with a 6-iron on the final hole of the U.S. Open, a fitting conclusion to a weird week at Bethpage, where the U.S. Open had more stops and starts than a 16-year-old learning to drive a stick shift.
Glover was crowned your champion Monday, shooting a 4-under 276 at Bethpage Black to earn the finest spitoon in golf.
Behind him on the leaderboard, Phil Mickelson (70) was trying to win for his ailing wife. David Duval (71) was attempting a return from the brink of obscurity, otherwise known as the 882nd spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. Ricky Barnes (76) was trying for his first victory, something you’re not supposed to earn at the U.S. Open, and avoid the baggage that comes from surrendering a 54-hole lead.
All of them challenged Glover, but fell two shots short. Tiger Woods even made a run, but by the end Glover had the luxury of hitting a mid-iron tee shot on the 72nd hole. It’s the first time someone’s hit that short a club on the final hole of a U.S. Open since the ’97 edition ended on a par-3 at Congressional.
Somewhere, Jean van de Velde is filling out Glover’s nomination for Mensa. Most people see Glover, with his thick Southern accent and wad of chew in his lip, and think he’s straight out of a Jeff Foxworthy joke, though.
Couldn’t be further from the truth. Glover used the constant rain delays to read four books this week, more than most PGA Tour players make their way through in a year.
“People have a vision of him, and they think, ‘redneck,’ and he’s far from that,” said his caddie, Don Cooper. “He’s a very smart man. He can do a crossword puzzle before I can brush my teeth.
“He’s a little misunderstood in that sense, but he don’t care.”
And he don’t have to. He’s the 109th United States Open champion.
Mickelson can’t even call himself that, but, boy, was he close, yet again. If you want to look at the glass as being half full, you could say this was a record-setting performance for Lefty. He became the first man to finish second in the U.S. Open five times.
“Certainly I’m disappointed,” Mickelson said. “But now that it’s over, I’ve got more important things going on, and, oh, well.”
This looked like Mickelson’s year when he made a 6-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th that tied him with Glover at 4 under. But Mickelson couldn’t help himself, making bogeys on 15 and 17.
Duval tied Mickelson and Glover for the lead at 3 under with a 6-foot birdie putt at 16. But Glover had a two-shot lead when he made his own birdie at 16 and Duval bogeyed the 17th.
When Glover made par on 17, something neither Duval or Mickelson could do, he could afford not to hit driver on the 354-yard 18th.
“The first thought that came in my mind was, ‘That’s the only club that something really funny can happen with,’ ” Cooper said.
Even Glover, normally stern-faced on the course, was able to get humorous after it was all over.
“How does it feel?” a reporter asked.
“Heavy,” Glover replied, holding the trophy. “I hope I don’t downgrade it or anything with my name on there.”
Woods didn’t find anything humorous about this Open, but that’s what happens after five days of watching balls bump and bounce by the hole.
“I striped it this week,” Woods said. “… Unfortunately, I didn’t make anything.”
He looked ready to make a run when birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 put him at 1 under par. He missed makeable birdie putts on the final three holes to finish four back and in a tie for sixth.
It’s not normal for a player to get their second Tour victory at the Open, especially when the first came at a theme park (’05 Funai Classic at Disney World). Most players don’t start a victorious Open with a double bogey, or rebound from a bogey-double-bogey stretch in the middle of the third round, either. Glover did all those things.
Maybe now Glover can smile, as one fan loudly recommended as he came down the final holes.
“That goes back to, he knows his abilities,” Cooper said about his man’s poker face. “He knows he really hasn’t lived up to them. You’ll see lots of smiles now.”