Glover holds on for U.S. Open victory
Sunday, January 30, 2011
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — In a final hour packed with emotion, Lucas Glover played a steady hand to win the U.S. Open.
So many amazing stories belonged to contenders all around him Monday at Bethpage Black, from Phil Mickelson’s stirring bid to win for his beloved wife as she battles breast cancer, to David Duval coming out of nowhere and almost winning for the first time in eight years.
Glover kept his cap tugged low and played the kind of golf that wins a U.S. Open under any conditions.
He made only one birdie in the rain-delayed final round, and it could not have been timed any better. Glover holed a 6-foot putt on the 16th hole to break one last tie for the lead, then held on with pars to close with a 3-over 73 for a two-shot victory.
“It was a test of patience, that’s for sure,” Glover said. “It was just heart today.”
It was sheer heartache for Mickelson.
His wife, Amy, is due to have surgery for breast cancer next week. She left cards and text messages asking him to bring home the silver trophy from a U.S. Open that has taunted Lefty for a decade.
The New York gallery came to life when Lefty rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 12th, and he followed with an approach to 4 feet on the par-5 13th for an eagle that suddenly gave him a share of the lead.
Right when it was in his grasp, though, Mickelson let it slip away again.
He missed a three-foot par putt on the 15th hole, and another par putt from eight feet on the 17th that ended his dream finish. Mickelson closed with a 70 and wound up in a three-way tie for second with Duval and 54-hole leader Ricky Barnes.
Mickelson left Bethpage Black with the wrong kind of distinction. He set the U.S. Open record with his fifth runner-up finish.
“Certainly I’m disappointed,” Mickelson said, “but now that it’s over, I’ve got more important things going on.
“And,” he added, then paused, “oh, well.”
Even more stunning was the revival of Duval.
The former No. 1 player in golf came to the U.S. Open as a qualifier who had plunged to No. 882 in the world. Showing remarkable resiliency throughout the week, Duval recovered from another big number — a triple bogey from a plugged lie in a bunker — and surged into a share of the lead with three straight birdies.
Tied for the lead with two holes to play, his 5-foot par putt on the 17th cruelly caught the back of the lip and spun 180 degrees out on the other side. He shot 71 for his best finish on the PGA Tour since he won the British Open eight years ago.
“I stand before you certainly happy with how I played, but extremely disappointed in the outcome,” Duval said. “I had no question in my mind I was going to win the golf tournament today.”
Barnes, who set the 36-hole Open scoring record, never had much of a chance. His swing got him into more trouble than he could handle as he went out in 40, 5 over par, and never quite recovered until it was too late. He shot a 76.
That left Glover the most unlikely champion.
The 29-year-old from South Carolina, who chews tobacco and listens to Sinatra, had not won since holing out a bunker shot on the final hole at Disney nearly five years ago.
But this was no fluke.
Once he was handed the lead by Barnes’ collapse, Glover was rock-solid on a water-logged course. And when he hit two of his best shots of the final round to the 16th green for his lone birdie, it made for an anticlimactic finish to a U.S. Open that had more delays than drama.
It was the first time the U.S. Open ended on a Monday without a playoff since 1983, courtesy of relentless rain.
Glover finished at 4-under 276, earned $1.35 million and will move inside the top 20 in the world ranking.
He pulled his cap over his head when he walked off the green and into the arms of his wife, Jennifer, stopping to hug his parents. He had enough strength left after a long week to hoist the silver trophy no one expected to be his.
“I hope I don’t downgrade it or anything with my name on there,” Glover quipped. “It’s an honor, and I’m just excited and happy as I can be to be on here.”
For the first time in five years, all the major trophies belong to someone other than Tiger Woods.
The defending champion reached under par for the first time all week at the par-3 14th, leaving him four shots out of the lead but running out of holes. Not that it mattered. He hit a 5-iron over the 15th green to make bogey, and had to settle for a 69 that left him in a tie for sixth, four shots out of the lead.
“I striped it this week,” Woods said. “I hit it just like I did at Memorial, and unfortunately, I didn’t make anything.”
Glover closed with the highest score of a U.S. Open champion since Ernie Els had a 73 at Oakmont when he won in 1994, although the only score that mattered was his even-par 35 on the back nine — and that crucial birdie.
Coming off a three-putt bogey from the bottom of the 15th green, Glover drilled his drive down the middle of the 16th fairway and had 173 yards to the hole. His 8-iron was true all the way, checking up 6 feet just left of the flag.
“I told him there was no way he was going to miss it,” said caddie Don Cooper.
Mickelson wasn’t so fortunate with the putter, typical of his fortunes in a major he can’t seem to win. He was feeling the love from the crowd, sensing this might be his year, when he hit hybrid out of the rough and up the hill to the 15th green.
The first putt from the fringe came up 3 feet short, above the hole. To the horror of thousands of fans surrounding the green, the par putt didn’t touch the hole.
“I just thought that it was going to stop breaking, and it broke a little more,” Mickelson said.
He came up short on the 17th, chipped eight feet short and didn’t hit that par putt with enough speed. His last hope was to make birdie on the 18th, but his 30-foot effort slid by the hole.
Mickelson lingered at Bethpage an hour after he finished to sign autographs, then headed home to an uncertain future. He has said he probably won’t go to the British Open and isn’t sure when he will return to golf.
“Maybe it’s more in perspective for me because ... I feel different this time,” he said. “I don’t know where to go with this, because I want to win this tournament badly.”