It was just one easy-to-overlook moment in a championship filled with them, but watching Lucas Glover play the second hole in Sunday’s final round of The Players Championship presented a curiosity factor that had to be explored.
So later, when the round was done and the grand prize had been decided in Tim Clark’s favor, Glover was asked just what was so funny hours earlier, back there at the second hole. His drive had caught a big tree limb down the right side and caromed sideways into the middle of the fairway, but only 179 yards from the tee.
“I asked Coop (caddie Don Cooper) to check yardages (for the layup shot),” Glover said.
And sure enough, Cooper went marching forward about 100 yards, then paced it off to where Glover’s ball rested.
“I told him, ‘We’ve got 350 to the front,’ ” Cooper said with a smile.
Glover laughed and slapped Cooper on the back.
“He told me, ‘That all, 350 to the front,’ ” Cooper said. “And when he laughed, I knew he was in a good place.”
Certainly, Glover was, too. Oh, he’d have preferred to have been in first, where Clark wound up, but it’s not hard to see that Glover was a big winner at this year’s Players Championship, too. Several things stood out about his third-place finish that are worth reviewing.
First and foremost, this is a tournament that had not treated him kindly – and that’s an understatement. In four previous trips to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Glover had missed four cuts and never shot better than 73. So going 70-65-69-70 makes you wonder what the secret was.
Typical of Glover, there was no secret, because he’s as uncomplicated a soul as you’ll ever find.
“You’ll like any course where you’re hitting it where you’re looking and knocking in putts,” Glover said.
It was his way of saying that he had changed his attitude for this year’s Players, that he hadn’t arrived harboring negative thoughts about the Stadium Course. After he opened with a 70, Glover told Cooper that he didn’t know what the problem had been before, “because it does fit my eye.”
Pushed into the mix with good days Friday and Saturday, Glover started the fourth round just two off the lead. But he bogeyed that second hole, then did likewise at the fourth, fifth and sixth. At 8 under, he was a whopping seven behind and fading fast.
Which is when he showed his grit, because Glover played the remaining 12 holes in 6 under to roar back up the leaderboard.
Don’t ever underestimate how such a performance can pay dividends heading into a time of year when Glover will soon be defending his U.S. Open title.
• • •
Crunching a few numbers from four days at the Stadium Course:
• Runner-up Robert Allenby and Bo Van Pelt (T-4) both played the par-5 16th in 5 under (three birdies, one eagle).
• Allenby did the same at the par-5 second, as did Woody Austin (T-56).
• If you’re thinking Allenby handled the par-5s pretty well, you’re right. He was 12 under – and that was with four pars at the ninth.
• Compare that to the winner, Tim Clark, who went just 6 under for the par-5s.
• Heath Slocum (T-4) was the only player to birdie the par-5 ninth all four days.
• Hunter Mahan (T-17) played the last 28 holes bogey-free.
• Having made just one bogey in 36 holes, Ryuji Imada was 11 under and in the final pairing for the third round. For the final two rounds, he made 11 bogeys, two doubles, shot 9 over and wound up crashing into a share of 39th.
• Ryan Moore (T-47) played the short, par-4 fourth in 6 over.
• • •
So, Hank Haney is no longer working with Tiger Woods. Fine. But does he still have Ray Romano and Charles Barkley in the stable?
• • •
Stewart Cink, who missed the cut at The Players with rounds of 73-70 and is struggling to re-discover the form that brought him a British Open title last summer, was asked if he thought he was perhaps trying too hard.
“I don’t think you can work too hard (to prepare),” Cink said. “I have a very good practice regimen, but I can’t seem to bring that to the course.”
He’ll skip this week’s stop in San Antonio, then next week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship before returning for the Colonial and the Memorial.
“I’m not far off from a good, nine-hole stretch.”
• • •
Graeme McDowell was talking to reporters about his 7-under 65 in the second round of The Players when George O’Grady stopped to shake hands. The European PGA Tour commissioner said he was on his way to have lunch with his counterpart on the PGA Tour, Tim Finchem.
“You’ll enjoy lunch with him today,” McDowell said with a smile as he nodded toward the huge leaderboard that each man could see. It showed England’s Lee Westwood in the lead, Italy’s Francesco Molinari a stroke behind, another Englishman, Luke Donald, sitting four back and McDowell, from Northern Ireland, was in a group tied for 10th, just five behind.
“Yes, it is a great leaderboard, isn’t it?” O’Grady said.
While it ended with Westwood (T-4) as the top European, it should be noted that foreign-born players have now won five of the past seven Players.
• • •
At 25, Dustin Johnson can be considered one of the game’s young talents. But with a preference toward the classic look in clothing, don’t expect him to go with the bright stuff that Rickie Fowler and Ryo Ishikawa have popularized.
In fact, in the second round of the Players Championship, Johnson wore just a white golf shirt, while Fowler was head to toe in orange.
“I’m not ever wearing all orange. Never,” Johnson said. “I don’t like orange.”
Perectly undestandable, too. His South Carolina allegiance, after all, is to the flagship state university, not Clemson.
Of course, Fowler’s orange is connected to his Oklahoma State roots, but either way, it’s not a color you’ll see on Johnson.