Lucas Who? Absolute Unknown Prevails at Rain Plagued U.S. Open
What a weekend.
With rain constantly on everyone's mind, the constant reminder of how difficult Bethpage Black was to play, Tiger Woods looking to repeat as U.S. Open champion, and Phil Mickelson looking to adorn his wife's hospital room with a bit of bling, two players out of nowhere led the field in a U.S. Open that ended in a way no one would have expected.
Tiger Woods reared back like he was going to roar, but his putter continued to betray him, and all we got was a quiet little meow as he finished even for the weekend and tied for eighth.
Phil Mickelson, the odds-on sentimental favorite, made another of his runs on the back nine, but came up in a tie for second place at yet another U.S. Open.
David Duval, the former No. 1 player in the world who fell completely off the map, played solid U.S. Open golf all weekend, but also only managed a tie for second.
Ricky Barnes, the leader after three rounds at eight under par (he even pushed it to 11-under after six holes in the third round), suffered a collapse of Norman-esque proportions and finished tied for second at two under par.
On an uncharacteristic U.S. Open course, where players could fire at the pin seemingly at will, the championship eventually went to a guy who double bogeyed the very first hole of the championship, shot three over par in the final round, and still cleared the rest of the field by two strokes.
The final pairing of the 2009 U.S. Open consisted of two names that had statisticians scrambling for info: Lucas Glover, ranked 108th in 2008 on the money list, never ranked higher than 21st in his career, who last won on the PGA tour back in 2005; and Ricky Barnes, the 312th-ranked player in 2008, who has had appearances in one more tournament than he has had birthdays (he's 23). Both looked to be running towards improbable and unforeseeable victory against the best in the game.
Then came the final round.
It actually began for the duo at the seventh hole in the third round. Glover got the worst end of the deal with a double bogey, but Barnes' bogey was the beginning of a swing that would see him lose nine strokes over the remainder of the tournament.
By the time Ricky made the turn at 10 in the final round, he looked more like a weekend duffer than a touring professional. A six over final round eliminated any chance he had of capturing the title.
Glover didn't seem to be fairing much better; after his double bogey at seven in the third round, he followed up with bogeys at three, five, nine and the treacherous 15th in his last round, and suddenly it looked like a three-way playoff round was in the works.
Then it happened.
First Mickelson, then Duval, made bogey at 17, a hole they had both birdied earlier in the week. Glover was one shot clear with three to play.
With Mickelson and Duval both parring 18, all Lucas needed was a par on his final hole to capture his first major.
He did not disappoint. He didn't exactly whip the crowd into a frenzy, either.
After a day of rousing cheers when Tiger, Phil, or David were making their runs, the crowd was relatively subdued as Glover sank his little four-footer to take the trophy. A hug of his caddie, a wave and tip of his cap to the crowd, a handshake for his playing partner, and the unassuming southern gentleman from Greenville, SC brought home one of the most improbable victories in PGA history.
The gravity of his accomplishment did not seem to affect Glover one bit. His post-tournament interview after the trophy presentation belied a quiet intensity that comes off as extremely laid-back and personable; the kind of guy you'd meet at just about any public course in the country.
Maybe there is hope for the rest of us.
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