THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Glover a good fit

He captures soggy US Open at a course suited to his game

Lucas Glover’s 3-over 73 in the final round was good for a two-shot victory. Lucas Glover’s 3-over 73 in the final round was good for a two-shot victory. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)
By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / June 23, 2009
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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - An hour from Broadway, the 109th US Open finally delivered the drama it had been lacking, with heartwarming stories playing out across a scintillating stage.

Lucas Glover emerging to take the final bow might have caught some observers off guard, but he’s OK with that. He knew people doubted his ability. And if the tournament is best remembered for who should have or could have won, instead of who actually did, Glover is OK with that, too.

Wrapping up a wet week on a Bethpage Black course he thought was perfectly suited for his game, Glover won the US Open yesterday by two strokes, breaking a tie by holing a short birdie putt on No. 16, then making a key par on the 17th hole after the two players he was tied with, Phil Mickelson and David Duval, couldn’t.

Finally, golf was the story, not the weather. And Glover, a stoic Southerner from South Carolina, is suddenly a major champion.

“It feels great. I didn’t expect this [last] Thursday, to say the least,’’ said Glover, who finished at 4-under-par 276. “But I was playing well coming in, and I knew if I put four together I might have a chance.’’

Glover clinched his victory with a 3-foot par putt on the 18th after playing partner, friend, and 54-hole leader Ricky Barnes just missed his putt for birdie. That would have forced Glover to make his knee-knocker. When Barnes’s putt missed, Glover needed only two putts to win. Consistent with his understated makeup, Glover pumped his fist, hugged his caddie, Dan Cooper, and shook hands with Barnes. Only when he reached his wife, Jennifer, did the emotion finally hit him.

“It’s an honor to be on the trophy. I hope I don’t downgrade it or anything with my name on there,’’ Glover said. “It’s an honor, and I’m just excited and happy as I can be.’’

The old Lucas Glover might not have had the patience required to win a US Open. Fed up with his play and his attitude and notoriously hard on himself, Glover left the PGA Tour late last year, taking four months off and, as he termed it, lowering his expectations. Glover was a hot prospect coming out of Clemson; he made the Presidents Cup team in 2007, but until yesterday he had only one Tour win, in 2005.

The time off, Glover said, was exactly what he needed. He rejoined the Tour in January, refreshed and ready to have a big year. There was a third-place finish at Torrey Pines, and a second-place finish in Charlotte at Quail Hollow, two US Open-style courses. His new attitude paid off here.

“I’ve worked on it. Something bad happens, let it go,’’ he said. “I doubled the first hole this week. Didn’t slam a club, didn’t do anything. Walked over to the second tee and said, ‘Hey, it’s the US Open and it’s going to be a long week.’ I wouldn’t have done that a couple years ago.’’

When play resumed yesterday morning, Glover and Barnes had 17 holes to play, and five strokes separating them from their closest pursuers. But as you’d expect from two young players trying to win their first major, birdies were almost nonexistent and bogeys easy to come by. With both gradually coming back to the pack, it opened the door for Mickelson, Duval, Hunter Mahan, Ross Fisher, and even Tiger Woods to think they had a good chance to win.

Mickelson was the sentimental choice, playing in his last tournament before taking time off to be with his wife, Amy, as she begins treatment for breast cancer. He put a charge into the proceedings, making birdies on Nos. 9 and 11, then an eagle at the par-5 13th. Suddenly he was tied with Glover for the lead, and had whipped the Bethpage crowds into a frenzy.

“I put myself in a great position to close it out,’’ Mickelson said, “but unfortunately I didn’t finish it off.’’

Duval, trying to revive his game after years of struggling, overcame a triple bogey and joined the mix with three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16. When Glover birdied the 16th and Duval bogeyed the 17th, he was two down, too.

“It’s very difficult to sit here and say second place is a failure. It is very much a success,’’ Duval said. “It’s not quite the success I had looked forward to this week and had hoped for, and in some way expected.’’

Woods got within four of the lead, but couldn’t make another birdie after his 2 at the short par-3 14th. Barnes, who led by six shots with 28 holes to play, was fighting his control all day. He made six bogeys in an eight-hole stretch, turning a tenuous lead into a three-shot deficit. He finally made a birdie, on the 13th, but couldn’t get another, finishing with a final-round 76.

“I easily could have shot 80 if I hadn’t regained focus and taken some deep breaths,’’ Barnes said.

Glover’s 73 won’t go down as one of the best final rounds in US Open history, but it didn’t have to be. He played with the lead from the seventh hole on, mostly in front by himself, joined by Mickelson, then by Duval. Then, finally, by himself again, the birdie on No. 16 putting him in front to stay.

He’ll be in Hartford this week for the Travelers Championship. And, thanks to a deal struck years ago with Cooper, his caddie of six years, Glover will be receiving a new Corvette. When Glover embraced Cooper after putting out on the 18th hole, he said to the caddie, “You owe me a Vette.’’

But first, he wanted to enjoy what he’d earned on Long Island. To survive a grueling pressure-cooker that the US Open brings, Glover called on the things he learned over the winter. Cooper said Glover always believed he had the game to win major championships. Maybe he’ll start convincing others now, too.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.