It was in the final hours of an arduous five-day run that the U.S. Open finally took shape, when its muddy and slippery story line coalesced into something beautiful. If the U.S. Open has always been golf's greatest self-examination, the 109th edition at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., was about a handful of golfers playing for much more than themselves.
The least known was a Southern gentleman, Lucas Glover, who three years ago buried his swing coach, Dick Harmon, after an emotional mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in Houston. The reserved Glover stood before 1,200 mourners and eloquently paid tribute to a teacher and a friend.
The best known was Phil Mickelson, inspired by his wife, Amy, who last month
learned she had breast cancer and was watching the drama unfold in San Diego, wishing for a prize she would put at her bedside.
And there was David Duval, once the world's No. 1 golfer before injuries and a loss of confidence sent him spiraling from that perch, happy again in simply trying to win tournaments for his family.
On a cool, cloudy Monday it was Glover finding stability in the soft ground, rolling in a go-ahead birdie putt on 16 and a knee-knocking par attempt on 17 to win the Open by two shots over Duval, Mickelson and Ricky Barnes. "Lucas earned it," said Glover's father, Jim, his chin quivering in the Bethpage clubhouse. "He's worked so hard his whole life."
It seemed incongruous that the 29-year-old former Clemson Tiger and the pride of Greenville, S.C., would achieve greatness in the heart of Long Island. But sometime during his youth Glover became a closet New Yorker. He roots for the Yankees, owns a copy of every Seinfeld episode and reads Lee Child. In December 2005 he married Jennifer Smith, and the two picked New York City for their honeymoon.
It snowed the day before the newlyweds arrived in Manhattan, blanketing the city in white just as they had hoped. They stayed near Columbus Circle, across from Central Park. They ate at Koi, saw The Producers and went ice skating at Bryant Park.
Last week Glover mentioned to Jennifer that it would be nice to have a one-bedroom apartment in New York City. She started checking out Manhattan real estate prices. "A million dollars later," she said, "we'll be staying put."
Snow was about the only thing missing at this Open, which had tee times at dusk, Biblical rain and players and fans wondering when they'd see the sun again. Before the tournament Bethpage Black had one water hazard, the pond fronting the par-3 8th; once it started, there were countless muddy streams. "It was so wet," said Boo Weekley, who shot 79-72 and missed the cut, "I saw frogs climbing up the clubhouse walls trying to get out."
The buildup to the championship had been immense, fueled by Tiger Woods's comeback victory at the Memorial on June 7 and more so by Mickelson's return to New York after he had left the Tour to be with Amy. Yet it was Barnes and Glover who unexpectedly shot to the top of the leader board. Theirs was a comfortable pairing they had played their first U.S. Open rounds together at Bethpage Black seven years earlier, both missing the cut and the two enjoyed the tee-time draw with the best weather for the first two rounds. (The scoring average of the afternoon starters in the first round, 72.87, was nearly two shots better than the morning groups' 74.75.)
But neither was accustomed to spending much time in contention at a major championship. In his first 11 majors Glover missed six cuts and finished no better than 20th, at the 2007 Masters. Barnes won the 2002 U.S. Amateur and scored better than Tiger Woods in the Masters the next year. With his long drives, square jaw and chiseled frame, Barnes looked like a budding star, but he languished for five years on the Nationwide tour before finally earning his PGA Tour card. Entering the Open, he had not finished in the top 10 in a Tour event. "It's humbled me," he said last Saturday of his journey.
"I told him, once he got his Tour card, 'What separates you from [Tour veterans] is attitude,'" says Barnes's older brother and caddie, Andy, an assistant men's golf coach at Arizona. "Those guys think they can win every week. Ricky's never lacked confidence, but he's beat himself up at times. He's a perfectionist."
Over the first two rounds the 28-year-old Barnes was nearly flawless. He set the 36-hole U.S. Open scoring record at eight-under 132, lashing at the Black course with a second-round 65 to take a one-shot lead over Glover. Barnes extended his lead to six shots midway through Sunday's third round he reached 11 under par with an eagle on the 4th hole, becoming only the fourth player in Open history to get to double figures under par but then he started to look shaky. He began yanking drives left, and, in a blink, his putts lacked conviction. During a 24-hole stretch starting at number 7 in the third round, he was 10 over par and surrendered the lead with four consecutive front-nine bogeys on Monday.