Glover grinds way to top of Open leaderboard

Lucas Glover of the U.S. plays a shot from the 18th tee during the second day of the British Open Golf Championship at Royal St George's golf course Sandwich, England, Friday, July 15, 2011.

SANDWICH, England – His ball having come to rest some 15 feet shy of the green and perhaps 45 feet from the hole, Lucas Glover had the par-4 17th hole right where he wanted it.

His next play would be with the putter.

“He wants to putt. He likes to putt. He enjoys putting at this stage of his career,” said Don Cooper, Glover’s longtime caddie. Then Cooper was asked about the lengthy putt from off the green, up a false front, at the 17th.

“He tried to make that. That’s how good he’s putting.”

Now if you’re going to take on the challenge of links golf, it is highly advisable that you be in a good frame of mind when it comes to the shortest club in the bag. After all, there are two rules to playing links golf – keep the ball along the ground, and when in doubt, fall back on rule No. 1.

While Glover rolled it beautifully at the 17th to save par, his level-par round of 70 left him wanting for more. “Just didn’t make as many putts,” he said.

Still, at 4-under 136 halfway through, Glover left Royal St. George’s with at least a share of the lead with Darren Clarke. True, the afternoon wave perhaps could have produced a better score, but Glover wasn’t going to spend any precious time thinking about it. So far as he was concerned, he was done for the day.

“I’m fine. I’m happy. I made the cut, I played well and I’ve got the afternoon off,” he said. “I’m pleased.”

As he should be, because for the first time in six trips to the Open Championship, Glover is in contention. Maybe that’s a surprise given his record over here (he’s missed the cut twice, his best finish is T-27, and before opening with a 66 Thursday he had broken 70 just once in 16 rounds), and his 2011 form (there is a win in 14 starts, but he’s missed five cuts, withdrawn once, and had just one finish inside the top 30).

Yet Glover has always been a feel player, one who depends on great timing and a comfortable rhythm. Put a check next to each category, because it’s gone quite well for 36 holes, though Cooper conceded Round 2 had its stressful moments.

“We normally have three gears – drive, reverse, neutral. But today we had it in ‘G,’ ” Cooper said. “It was a grind out there.”

Now warm and manageable wind may seem to be a green light recipe on links, but the unheralded aspect to this style of golf are the greens. Quite often flat and fast-running, at Royal St. George’s there are a great many swales and the putting surfaces possess a ton of movement. Throw in the fact that they are firm and getting toastier by the minute, and the most common sight is a ball bounding onto the green 30 feet shy of the hole and racing 30 to 40 feet by.

“It’s so hard to build up any sort of momentum,” Adam Scott said.

Indeed it is, and Glover was no exception to this. But after turning in a 1-under 34, then making bogey at No. 10, Glover was rock-solid consistent, coming home in eight consecutive pars to stake a claim on the clubhouse lead. Now while Glover did squander a few chances for birdie, he remained in contention because he maintained a wonderful tempo with the putter.

“If he gets the read right, he’s going to make it within 15 feet the way he’s putting,” Cooper said. “If he misses, it won’t be because of the stroke; the stroke is beautiful.”

That sort of free and easy and good-feel attitude also can describe Glover’s week, which has involved a great deal of time with Davis Love. They share the same agent, Mac Barnhardt, and the same zip code, Sea Island, Ga., and this week they’re sharing a house in Sandwich with their caddies, Cooper and Jeff Webber.

Besides three practice rounds together and 36 holes of competition, what have Glover and Love been doing?

“Eating as much as we can,” Glover said.

Now it may be the first time we’ve heard an American golfer say they’re eating as much British food as they can, but hey, he’s got a red four next to his name, so who’s to argue? Besides, Glover claims he found a place in town, Amigos, that he loves because “they deliver.” OK, so it’s not five-star stuff, but according to Amigos’ website “you will enjoy the tantalizing tastes of the South Americas, but in a more healthy way.”

Apparently, the delivery part of the equation is important, because Love told a reporter that the other pastime is passing the remote around to take on the challenge of finding something to watch on TV. It’s not easy over here, and admittedly, many Americans are out of their comfort zone. On the course, however, Glover has found his with the fast-running links.

Through two days, Glover has hit 27 of 36 greens and the stats support Cooper’s claim that his man is rolling it beautifully – a dozen one-putts, two dozen two-putts and a doughnut in the three-putt column.

It adds up to easily Glover’s best links experience. If you’re wondering in which direction to toss the credit, consider the food from Amigos, the camaraderie with a good friend (let’s not forget, Love is 2 under, so maybe they’re good for each other), or the good feel he has for the ground game, you apparently can ignore freshly ironed clothes.

“Not me,” Glover said to a reporter’s query about whether he does his own ironing. “I don’t know what an iron looks like. That’s the beauty of these clothes. You hang them up for a night, and you’re good.”

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