PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — He looks like a mountain man, a hippie, a San Francisco Giants relief pitcher, something out of a Civil War reenactment, Hangover actor Zach Galifianakis, or as David Feherty put it on CBS last week, like he could be on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch.
Lucas Glover's beard has drawn such a response you have to wonder if it hasn't hurt the feelings of Blake Adams, Hunter Mahan, Ryan Moore and D.J. Trahan, who also showed up to this week's Players Championship sporting facial hair.
"He's in another category of woolly mammoth," Mahan said Friday of Glover's thick, blackish-auburn brush, which rivals that of Giants reliever Brian Wilson and even has its own Facebook page. More players weighed in on Glover's beard during Saturday's four-and-a-half-hour rain delay.
Rocco Mediate: "I like it, but I couldn't wear it in this heat."
Robert Allenby: "It looks terrible. He trimmed it up a bit, though. I think he went underground there for a while."
Jason Bohn: "Oh, you mean Adams? Grizzly? I like it. It's a look. Boy, he can grow it thick, can't he?"
Yes he can. After shooting rounds of 65-71, Glover was just two behind leader David Toms. And after the rain, he teed off with playing partner Luke Donald at 6:40 p.m. Saturday. Dressed in white slacks and a red shirt, Donald looked resplendent and on message for sponsor Polo Golf. Glover, in all black, his cap pulled low over his eyes, heavily bearded, looked like he got lost on the way to the taxidermist.
Donald hit driver into the sand trap right, and Glover hit 3-wood (the Nike Sasquatch?) down the fairway. A cry rang out from the stands: "Fear the beard!" They would get in only six holes. Glover missed a birdie putt from inside four feet on the first, just as he'd missed from that distance on his last hole the day before. But he would two-putt for birdie on the par-5 second, and par the rest to go to bed 9-under, two behind co-leaders Graeme McDowell and Nick Watney.
Even after he won the Wells Fargo Championship last weekend for his first Tour win since the 2009 U.S. Open, Glover's beard gets more buzz than Glover. With his permission, Justin Rose tweeted a photo of it in January, with a caption: "Winning the U.S. Open, so easy a caveman could do it." Paul Azinger tweeted earlier this week, "In the 70s it was a $500 fine on the PGA Tour for playing with a beard."
Indeed, when a man grows a beard it can send up warning signals. It's a metaphor, of sorts, for being deep in the woods or at least the Stanley Cup playoffs. Glover is reportedly getting divorced from his high school and college sweetheart, Jennifer Smith, but he's chosen to keep his private life private. When asked after the Wells Fargo about the changes he's going through off the course, he said, "I'll probably leave that over there if that's all right."
He has joked that his caddie, Don Cooper, uses the beard to clean his clubs. He says he grew it out of laziness and liked it so much he decided to keep it. He prefers to let the beard speak for him, which is convenient because the beard doesn't say much.
"Yeah, the beard thing, it was something to do back in the fall, and a bunch of people said, 'Hey, it looks pretty good,'" Glover said. "I thought, why not, take it to the West Coast and see what happens. I'm scared of the tan now. It's going to be bad."
According to his friends, Glover, an avid reader and unabashed Seinfeld fanatic, is a sensitive soul who perhaps has been a bit too sensitive, at times, for the grind of the PGA Tour.
"I was short and fat until I was about 15," the 6-foot, 2-inch Glover told me in a 2006 interview. "Then I grew straight up."
People in his circle work around the edges of Glover's tumult while never revealing too much. Former Clemson teammate Jonathan Byrd, whom Glover beat in a playoff at the Wells Fargo, said Glover has "had to play through some things." Clemson golf coach Larry Penley told Golfweek, "Well, he's had a tough year and a half, just tough. He hasn't been very happy with his golf or his life."
Reached by phone Saturday and asked if Glover is living alone in his hometown of Sea Island, Ga., his trainer, Randy Myers, would not comment except to say Glover has a "huge heart."
"I see him as much as anybody and he hasn't talked about any of that stuff at all," Myers said. "I actually think the beard was more a reaction to him playing bad last year. It was something different."
Glover made a swing change in the off-season with coach Mike Taylor, and worked out with Myers daily, rededicating himself to a game that at times drove him to despair after the '09 Bethpage Open. Myers said the results were so dramatic it was a foregone conclusion that Glover would win again in 2011.
"He's always had a big year in the odd years," Myers said. "We were so confident we actually talked about him winning by San Diego."
San Diego would be the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January. That was when Glover's beard may have reached its most prodigious heft and thickness. Comments on a beard blog called it "dense" and even "epic." (What, you don't read beard blogs?) He had trimmed it by the time he won the Wells Fargo, which probably was a good thing, if you're the sponsor or Tour commish Tim Finchem.
How long will it last? That might depend on what's going on in Glover's life, and he isn't talking, and despite popular demand his whiskers have yet to put out a press release. Now that Glover's won as the golfing Unabomber, though, you have to wonder. It's like they say in the NHL: You don't mess with a streak.