May
9
2011
BEARD POWER!
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Fear the Beard!

Ed note: I didn’t intend for “A Short Game Saved My Life: the Lucas Glover Story” to turn into a novel. Forgive me, it was late when I finished. I’ve split the original post into two separate ones, but I’m also now realizing it’s rather long. My apologies, but hey, there was some pretty exciting action happening at Quail Hollow on Sunday. Go here to read the first one.

Lucas Glover overshot the 16th green at Quail Hollow and ended up in the collection area behind it. Barely a second after Glover struck his chip, a group of local fans, who may have had a few too many adult beverages, roared, “Beard Power!” His ball rolled down toward the front pin location and came to a rest four-feet from the cup. Several guys in the gallery reacted, yelling, “Go Tigers!”

The Clemson graduate even had a local cheer squad in Charlotte. A group of fraternity brothers wore hand-painted T-shirts emblazoned with “Fear the Beard” walked with Glover to support him all week at the Wells Fargo Championship. (I’m told they were not the ones yelling and made sure to conduct themselves respectfully.)

A Clemson booster Rich Davies hosted Glover at his home on the 15th hole at Quail Hollow Club for the week. Davies’ oldest son and his frat brothers painted the T-shirts in the garage, but since they wouldn’t let Glover see them in advance, he was concerned for a bit over the crazy possibilities.

“I was pleased when I saw that it was that tame,” said a bemused Glover. “Believe me, I didn’t know what they were doing in the garage.”

Just before the leaders made the turn. it appeared as though Jonathan Byrd was going to continue his momentum and build on his lead. But with the clustered leaderboard and tough finishing holes, it was still up for grabs. I must admit that I expected a ho-hum ending. From the Rory Sabbatini and Sean O’Hair spat in New Orleans to the passing of Spanish golfing hero Seve Ballesteros, I figured the drama quota had been filled for the week. I thought too soon.

Either way, I knew I wanted to catch some of the action live (in fear of nodding off in the media room — kidding!).

SI colleague Damon Hack and I ventured to the back nine and caught up with Brian Davis and Bill Haas, who was tied for the lead at 14-under at the time, on the 14th. From 100 yards out in the middle of the fairway, Haas flew the front pin by 60 feet. And with the lightning fast, undulating greens at Quail Hollow, he faced a difficult lag, especially putting from above the hole. He three-putted to fall back to 13-under. Davis struggled, too, three-putting for par from the fringe after nearly driving the green. On the next tee, the reachable-in-two par-5, he tried to smack his driver, and instead, snap-hooked it into the pond.

Damon and I were so traumatized that we trailed back to Glover and Stewart Cink. We caught up to the Glover and Cink on No. 13.

Sitting behind the green, we noticed a peculiar sight — Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington were standing on the tee. Um, I was pretty sure they finished at least an hour ago. Turned out they were investigating the scene of an alleged crime, where a marshal accused Harrington of teeing his ball ahead of the markers. After a tedious, perplexing investigation didn’t offer enough damning evidence, Harrington’s four-day total of 10-under was safeguarded.

Meanwhile, Glover, who had dropped a stroke after bogeying the 12th, knocked a dart to 18 feet on the par-3, rolling it in for birdie to retake the lead at 15-under. “Fear the beard! Yeah, Tigers!” hollered Glover’s fan club.

As he contemplated whether to try and drive the green with his 3-wood or lay up on 14 tee, he finally asked his caddie, “How do we stand?” He said, “We’re up one.” Glover decided to go with the safe play — lay up, hit wedge close and to get a good birdie look.

“That way, I’d take the big number out of play,” said Glover.

With just 90 yards to the pin and a wedge in hand in the middle of the fariway, he hit a dreadful shot, pulling it left of the pin. Though the ball landed on the green, it immediately spun hard left and into the pond.

“First shot landed correct, second shot 15 feet left of the hole, actually a very poor wedge shot and spun back in the water,” he said. “I got what I deserved and that was a bogey.”

But Glover didn’t panic or get upset. He knew he had 15 up next, which he’d played great all week.

“Just think in years past, I might have blown up there and might have done things differently,” he admitted. “But I was proud of myself the way I handled that one because it lands 15 feet from the hole, you’d say, ‘Okay, great, decent shot,’ but it was a terrible shot.

While he pulled his drive on 15, he hit his second short of the green and pitched up to a foot for an easy tap-in birdie to once again grab the lead at 15-under. Rory Sabbatini, Jonathan Byrd and Bill Haas were all 14-under at this point. Coming up on the challenging three finishing holes, Glover pushed his drive into the right fairway bunker. Yuck. He was near the lip and opened the face to an eight-iron to hack it out.

“Tigers! Go Tigers!” the Charlotte chapter of the Lucas Glover fan club repeatedly called out as he made his way up 16.

Glover’s tee shot on the par-3 17 didn’t release like he expected, leaving him with 70-feet to the pin. He rolled a decent lag to about six feet. But those were as good as gimmes for Glover this week, and in a pressure-packed situation, he calmly drained the his par putt.

Not exactly the ideal way to avoid the hazard guarding the left side of the fairway

Glover, who held a one-shot lead going into 18, pulled his drive so far left that it missed the hazard by a good 15-20 yards, flying into the gallery. The ball rested near the buttocks of a fan, who sat patiently until Glover walked up to mark it. Once the fan stood up, the ball rolled down the hill and after Glover attempted to drop it, but then had to place the ball to as close to the original spot as possible.

With the ball well below his feet and an awkward stance, Glover started to set up to the ball, but he hadn’t addressed it or grounded his club. In fact, the rules official on the scene, Tony Wallin, warned Glover, “Be careful with that one. Don’t ground your club because it’s kind of tight.” Good call because as Glover was settling his feet and waggling the club (in the air), suddenly the ball rolled about 20 feet down the hill.

“That’s bizarre,” he remarked as he walked down toward his new lie. Which was arguably a great break — the kind you sometimes need to win.

“Better stance, worse lie,” said Glover.

Perhaps a bit of a better angle, too, from my perspective. Counting the peculiar events earlier in the day, “bizarre” was a fitting word to describe the incident.

He hit a nice-looking six-iron, which landed on the green before rolling just off the back. With a tough, fast downhill chip to the front pin, Glover executed it perfectly to eight feet below the hole and made the putt. He reacted with a massive fist-pump — it was arguably more vivacious than his ho-hum two-putt to win the US Open (though you can’t equate a major win with anything, but this was more dramatic).

I guess Damon and I picked the right twosome to follow.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)