Glover wins for 1st time since '09 US Open
Sunday, May 8, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lucas Glover had gone 41 tournaments and nearly two years since winning the U.S. Open for his last victory. His win Sunday in the Wells Fargo Championship was every bit as demanding.
Glover closed with three tough pars on the rugged finishing stretch at Quail Hollow for a 3-under 69. Then he faced a playoff with close friend and former Clemson teammate Jonathan Byrd, who made a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to catch him.
Glover kept the tournament in suspense to the very end.
After Byrd took bogey with a poor chip from the hazard, Glover had two putts from 25 feet for the win. He left the first one 4 feet short and still above the hole, then knocked that in for his third career victory.
This one came out of nowhere.
Glover, who has been going through a divorce the last several months, missed the cut in his last three tournaments and had only one top 10 in the last year. But he found something in his game when he arrived at Quail Hollow, and he showed great nerves in a tight finish.
Glover became the first player in the nine-year history at Quail Hollow to win with four rounds in the 60s.
Byrd, who started the final round with a one-shot lead as he tried for his third win in seven months, closed with a 72. Even so, he finished with two clutch pars and one dramatic birdie to catch Glover and force the playoff.
They finished at 15-under 273.
Rory Sabbatini, who closed with a 65 and was 13-under 131 on the weekend, wound up alone in third and will move into the top 50 of the world. Now he has to stay there for two more weeks to be exempt for the U.S. Open.
Bill Haas had a 70 to finish alone in fourth. Pat Perez, who set a tournament record with 26 birdies, had an outside chance at winning until closing with three straight bogeys to tie for sixth.
Glover, who started the final round three shots behind, took the lead with a 30-foot eagle putt on the 10th.
Then came a wild ride — bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie — that brought him to what Quail Hollow refers to as the "Green Mile," a punishing stretch of three holes. He saved par from well behind the 16th green. He two-putted from just under 100 feet on the 17th, making a 6-footer for par.
On the 18th in regulation, he pulled his tee shot left of the tiny stream and into the gallery, the ball settling under a spectator. Glover got relief, but as set up over the shot, it tumbled down the hill into an even more awkward lie. Glover did well to get it onto and then over the green, chipped to 7 feet below the hole and slammed his fist when it fell for par.
Byrd was back on the tee when he heard the roar, knowing he needed birdie.
Glover all but predicted it. The close friends had joked before the third round that they would be paired together on Sunday late in the afternoon. They probably didn't have this late in mind, but when Glover walked off the 18th green, he recounted the story and figured Byrd would live up to his end of the bargain.
And he did. Byrd hit his approach to 15 feet right of the cup and made it for birdie. They embraced on the putting green as Byrd walked into sign his card, then headed back to the 18th tee.
Sabbatini was among five players atop the leaderboard in a wacky final round, and the action was relentless.
It started with the spunky South African, who had only been talked about this week over his profanity-filled argument with Sean O'Hair last week in New Orleans that could lead to a suspension.
Sabbatini posted at 14-under 274, and it looked as though it might be enough for a playoff as the Glover, Byrd, Haas and Perez kept finding trouble along the last five holes.
Glover had the most control over the outcome, but from the fairway on the 18th, he pulled a sand wedge just enough to spin left, catch the slope and go into the water. He did well to get up-and-down and escape with bogey, then hit a delicate chip to tap-in range for birdie on the par-5 15th to get back into the lead.
The final three holes were the biggest test, and he looked as solid as a U.S. Open champion.
Byrd looked to be in control until closing out the front nine with back-to-back bogeys, then making another one on the 14th when his shot from the right rough also found the water. But he followed with a birdie on the 15th, then punched out of the trees on the 16th and hit his shot from 167 yards to 2 feet for an unlikely par, and closed with a dramatic birdie.
Perez came undone early with two balls into the water for a double bogey at No. 7, but he rallied hard on the back nine. When his shot sailed over the 16th green and led to bogey, his chances were over.
Even those not in contention managed to add to the Sunday drama.
Padraig Harrington made a brief charge, and when his round was over, he was told that someone thought he had teed his ball just slightly ahead of the markers on the 13th. Harrington and Phil Mickelson went out to the tee, watched replays and decided there was no way to determine. Harrington typically takes a penalty if he feels there is a slight chance he did something wrong.
But not this time.
"There's just no way," he told a rules official on the 13th.
Harrington (68) and Mickelson (69) tied for the ninth, five shots behind the leaders.
It was the eighth playoff this year on the PGA Tour, and the third in a row. Glover earned $1.17 million and should move back into the top 50 in the world ranking.
Almost as unusual as two college teammates in a playoff was how they play. Neither player uses a glove.