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Lucas Glover feeling healthy after 'strange' year

By Doug Ferguson
AP Golf Writer / May 1, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Lucas Glover already has been through a lot this year, even if the calendar shows the first week in May.

He injured his left knee when he slipped off a paddle board in the Pacific Ocean the weekend before the season opener in Kapalua, and it wound up keeping him out of golf until the middle of March. Then, he suffered a rib injury at the Masters, but played through it the next week at Hilton Head, the only PGA Tour event in his native South Carolina.

He is the defending champion at the Wells Fargo Championship. It will be only his sixth tournament this year.

"I think any time you come somewhere you've had success, it gives you that little bit of confidence -- even if it's been a strange year for you," he said.

Strange, indeed.

The paddle board incident was a fluke fall, and Glover didn't grasp how serious it was. He went to the practice range the next week in Honolulu thinking he might be able to play and walk on a flat golf course. He didn't realize he would be out two months.

More peculiar was the rib injury. He said he pulled an intercostal muscle on his left side.

"If it had been any other week but Augusta, I don't think I would have played," he said. "But it's pretty hard to withdraw from that one, so I played through it, and just got it fixed and feel pretty good."

Glover said he feels as good as he has since he paddled out to the ocean the weekend before Kapalua. He has made three cuts, though his best finish was last week in New Orleans when he tied for 66th. Even so, he expects to make a strong title defense at Quail Hollow.

"You guys wrote about Freddie (Couples) at Augusta, you expect him to drive through those gates and play well and he loves it there," Glover said. "And that's how I am here. I was here last Sunday and played with some friends, and it was probably the best round I've played all year. And I know it was practice, and I know it doesn't matter and nobody cares, but just being here, there's something about it for me."

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JACK AND THE TREE: One of the famous stories from Pebble Beach is a tree that got in the way of Arnold Palmer trying to win in 1967. One shot behind in the final round, his approach to the par-5 14th hit the tree and went out-of-bounds. Palmer reloaded and the same thing happened. He wound up making a 9.

The next day, a fierce storm uprooted the tree.

Turns out Jack Nicklaus has his own tree story.

Nicklaus was a 21-year-old amateur in the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, and he was one shot behind playing the par-5 12th as he made a run at Gene Littler. That's when he ran into an elm tree that wasn't even in the way. Nicklaus said he nailed a 3-wood and it was headed for the green when a gust of wind blew the elm toward the fairway, in the path of the ball, and knocked it down.

"I felt like it was going to be on the green," he said. "It dropped it straight down. I made a 6 instead of a 4. And then I three-putted the 17th."

He tied for fourth, then won his first U.S. Open a year later at Oakmont.

As for that tree?

"That tree is gone," Nicklaus said.

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FOSTER OUT: Lee Westwood is in good form coming into the next two majors. Now he needs a caddie.

Westwood arrived at Quail Hollow on Tuesday to learn that his caddie, Billy Foster, blew out his right knee while reaching to kick a soccer ball. The worst part about is that Foster had no intention of taking part in a match between a group of European caddies and a local club in Charlotte.

"They asked me if I wanted to play and my answer was I was too old for that. It was too dangerous," Foster said from the caddie tent, crutches at his side. "I was just there to watch. Before the match, they were kicking the ball around, like I do at home with my boys. I stretched, and as soon as I planted, my knee collapsed. I heard it rip and crack, and I knew I was in trouble."

Foster had a trainer look at his knee and said it appeared to be a ligament tear.

He said he likely would be out for six to eight weeks, and that's the best-case scenario. That could force him to miss the U.S. Open and British Open.

Westwood is using Casey Kerr, who caddied for Fred Couples at the Masters. He has not started a search for a full-time substitute while Foster heals.

Foster said it was the first time he was injured since the 1991 World Match Play Championship, when he was working for Seve Ballesteros and his knee locked up on the first tee. Ballesteros won on the 34th hole.

Westwood is No. 3 in the world, and along with winning the Indonesia Masters two weeks ago, he has finished among the top 5 in five of his last seven starts.

"It's devastating," Foster said. "Lee is playing as good as he has ever played. I'm just clumsy."

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U.S. OPEN: Ernie Els was on the USGA's radar screen when it comes to special exemptions for the U.S. Open. That won't be necessary now. Even though he lost in a playoff at New Orleans, it was enough to move the two-time U.S. Open champion to No. 40 in the world.

In a change this year, the U.S. Open will take the top 60 in the world on May 21 (after the Colonial), which makes Els a lock for The Olympic Club. Vijay Singh at Pebble Beach in 2010 was the last player to receive a special exemption, and with Els safe, there doesn't appear to be any candidates this year.

That decision will come later.

USGA executive director Mike Davis said any special exemption would be offered before sectional qualifying fields are established.

"We've always been very stingy on these special exemptions," he said. "In general, we don't want to give up any special exemptions unless there's a compelling reason."

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NOT A BIG MISS: Hank Haney's book, "The Big Miss," has been anything but that for Crown Publishing.

The book on his six years as the swing coach for Tiger Woods reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list on April 15 for combined print and ebooks. It reached as high as No. 2 for two weeks under hardcover nonfiction, and has only fallen to No. 5 this week.

While Crown does not disclose sales figures, it says the book has gone back to press seven times and there are 228,000 copies in print.

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DIVOTS: Charles Howell III made a hole-in-one in the final round at New Orleans, his second ace on the PGA Tour this year. He also had a hole-in-one on the seventh hole of the final round at the Honda Classic. ... Se Ri Pak has a slight tear in her left labrum from slipping on stairs last week. She will be out indefinitely, though she said the next two months would be important for her recovery. ... No one has made 50 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods' record streak ended at 142 in 2005. Steve Stricker has made 49 consecutive cuts going into The Players Championship next week. ... Greg Norman is making a rare appearance on the Champions Tour when he plays the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel outside Pittsburgh at the end of June.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has won or finished second 100 times in his PGA Tour career -- or 38 percent of the time as a pro.

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FINAL WORD: "If I'm being compared to him, I'm doing something right." -- Rory McIlroy, on comparisons with Tiger Woods.

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