A Short Game Saved My Life: the Lucas Glover Story (Updated)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Beard Power!

When Lucas Glover last hoisted a trophy — a major one, no less — he was one of the game’s 20-something rising stars. Nearly two years later, his finesse around the greens and top-notch putting were instrumental to his victory Quail Hollow, outlasting best friend and former Clemson teammate Jonathan Byrd in a sudden death playoff to capture the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I’m elated, absolutely elated, especially here,” Glover said. “I’ve got a lot of friends at Quail Hollow, a lot of friends in town, a lot of support. Anytime you win, you’re pleased because you did what you set out to do when the bell rang on Thursday. Against this field, on this golf course, in a tournament of this magnitude, I’m thrilled.”

With the rough time Glover’s had both on and off the course in the last year, his luck was bound to change. While he politely declined to talk about his personal life, it’s well-known he’s been going through a difficult divorce the last several months.

Throughout the week, Glover emphasized putting as the key factor to his solid play. On Sunday he rolled in every putt inside ten feet that he needed to make to save par and maintain his momentum, particularly coming down the stretch.

Clutch putting made all the difference for Glover

“Any time, any pressure situation, whether it’s a guy making free throws or making a field goal or anything, it’s just execution,” said Glover in his post-victory presser. “With a one-shot lead those last three holes you’ve got to execute. Did I execute full swing? Who’s to say. But I executed short game, and I made my putts.”

Glover’s caddie Don Cooper added, “He putted like a genius. When he stood over those  footers, we said to each other, ‘There was only one place for this to go: Right in the bottom.'”

Earlier in the week, Glover, a native of Greenville, S.C., expressed his delight that he wasn’t driving home on Friday night — a common occurrence recently. Prior to his third-career victory on Sunday, he had hopped in his gray pick-up truck at the halfway point three consecutive weeks in a row.

Less than two years ago, he emerged from near-anonymity to capture the ’09 US Open at Bethpage Black. It didn’t take long for the seemingly boring and clean-cut Glover to fall off the radar. Well, until he showed up at the beginning of the season with a proper full beard and straggly curls protruding from his hat. If it weren’t for the Nike digs, he wouldn’t have been too far-fetched to mistake him for a mountain man rather than a professional golfer.

Glover push-faded his drive on 16 into the bunker, leaving him with a difficult shot at the tucked pin.

“I got brain lock on 16,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve hit that fairway since the ’90s. But 17 I finally hit a good shot there, first of the week, and it didn’t release. It was just execution and pressure or not, that’s just what it came down to for me. One-shot lead with those three holes to play, I was able to tell myself, alright, we execute — there aren’t many birdies on these three holes, so we’re going to have a chance.

“That’s what I had to tell myself, and short game was executing; long game, not so much, but you all know from watching as much golf as y’all have that a good putt or a good chip can save you from a bad drive sometimes.”

J. Byrd celebrates after draining his birdie to force a playoff against his BFF

Byrd still had 18 to play and needed to birdie to force a playoff. He sunk a clutch 14-footer, and like Glover, he let out a burst of raw emotion. Before the first extra hole got underway, the two friends hugged.

A day earlier, Glover predicted they would meet each other on Sunday in a playoff.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we plan on seeing each other tomorrow around 2:00,’ and it was 6:00,” cracked Glover, who has an understated wit. “I wouldn’t choose very many people to walk around in a playoff with other than Jonathan.”

Glover’s drive in the first playoff hole, the 18th, safely found the fairway, and he stuck his approach to about 20 feet. Meanwhile, Byrd found the right fairway bunker off the tee and his second stayed dry, but ended up in the hazard. He had a tough chip that ran by the hole by 20 feet. Glover left his birdie putt well short of the cup, but like he had done all week, he calmly rolled in a four-footer for the win.

Lucas and Byrd: I love you, man!

“If I couldn’t win, I couldn’t pick anybody else I’d want to win other than Lucas,” Byrd said. “So I’m very happy for him.”

Welcome back to the winner’s circle, Lucas Glover. Keep fearing the beard.

[*Update 5.9.11, 4:20pm: I didn’t intend for this post to turn into a novel. In fact, I didn’t realize how long it was last night — maybe because it was 4am. Since we live in an ADD-world, I’ve split the original post into two separate ones. Here’s the other.]

(AP Photos/Bob Leverone, Chuck Burton)