In what turned out to be a fitting finale to an unconventional week at the U.S Open, Lucas Glover put together just enough magic to outlast two golf heavyweights, one past, one present. It wasn't the prettiest of victories. Not by any stretch. Glover shot a final round +3, 73. This was the type of Bethpage Black golf that I envisioned at the start of the week. Hemming, hawing, saving par, and sinking the inevitable big shots needed to win a major. Glover did exactly that.
But, like anything in sports, the story is not only how Glover won the tournament, but also how more prominent names lost it. Most notably, Phil Mickleson. Mickleson was tied for the lead with two holes to play. But a boggey on the 15th and 17th and a par on the 18th left the peoples champ two shots back. Say what you want about Phil, it was hard not to root for him on the back nine today. The charge had epic potential, but fell short- like so many do for Mickleson. While this one may have had special significance for Mickleson, it ended in much the same way they all do. My first thought after he missed the putt for par on 17 was this- "Phil choked again." Immediately, I felt bad, but the truth is the truth.
Its hard to call it a collapse for Phil because he spent almost all of the tournament chasing. In fact, while feelings of disappointment for be prevalent, I think this will be looked upon as a good moment in his career. Here Phil is, going through some family issues that you would not wish on your worst enemy. Coming off a lack luster performance at the St. Jude, including a disastrous Sunday, Phil looked like he just had too much on his plate to compete in a major championship. Would it have surprised anyone if Mickleson had come out and shot 2 or 3 over par for the tournament, never being a serious contender? I don't think so. In fact that's what I predicted would happen. Would it have shocked anyone if Phil even missed the cut? I don't see how it could have. But instead, Phil fought on.
Through a first two rounds that could have broken even the most stablest golfers rhythm and flow, Phil got stronger. It was on Fathers Day, after some of the most frustrating days a Tour pro can have, that Phil made his move towards the leader board. And it was on a pressure packed Monday, a Monday that he envisioned being with his family preparing for one last vacation before their lives are potentially changed forever, that he came so close to what may have been looked at as the greatest U.S Open victory of all time. If nothing else, for sentimental reasons. In the end, it was a typical Phil ending to a typical Phil story. Couldn't put the final nail in the coffin. Was it a choke? In the purest of golf senses, probably. But I guarantee that it will be remembered as not what could have been. But rather, what was his greatest runner up finish ever.
David Duval gave himself new life this weekend. If he wasn't such an unlikable guy, maybe this story would have gotten more pub. More likely, however, is that Duval's story was over shadowed by his partner on the leader board, Phil Mickleson. Duval hasn't been himself in nearly half a decade. Was this weekend a gigantic fluke or did David Duval just wake up from the longest cat nap of all time? Only time will tell. But this is for sure: Duval catapulted himself back into the minds of golf fans everywhere. At least for the time being. Like Phil, Duval had more then enough chances to win the tournament. His transgressions came on the front nine more than the back. A bogey on 5 and 7 and a double bogey on 3 seemed like David's U.S Open swan song for 2009. But not so fast! A string of pars and three consecutive birds later and Duval was back yet again with two holes to play. A boggey on 17 ended the run and his improbable shot. But on a tour where the story lines are never ending, Duval has just given us another one. What does it all mean? I, for one, have no idea. I am inclined to think its a fluke. Could David Duval actually rise from the dead? It doesn't make sense that someone could play that bad for that long and then just return to prominence like he's back from a long weekend at Woodloch Pines? What next, John Daily winning the British? However, I do know this. I can't wait for Duval's next start...and I don't remember ever thinking that.
Ok, It has to be talked about. Theirs an old term in golf called "throwing up on yourself." It's what happens when golfer have leads going into the final round and, er, ruin their sheets and pillows. Next to this definition in the golf dictionary should be a picture of Rickey Barns looking confused. After leading for the majority of the tournament, Rickey collapsed like a rusty lawn chair. Talk about omens! On his tee shot of his only hole on Sunday, he looked like he had never swung a golf club before. The best comparison I could make in print in to compare it to a stutter step, but with a golf club. We wondered if this disastrous first hole would lead to a disastrous round. The only positive for Barns on Monday? No double bogeys. Never mind the seven bogeys and one birdie. I don't think anyone expected Barns to stay in contention for first. I was thinking +2 or +3 for the day. What came was a +6, 76. Can you say ouch. I like to give out my choke of the week when appropriate. Do I even have to say it?
So how about the winner? Just who is Lucas Glover? Well, he's thirty third on the money list and made 12 of 15 cuts this season. His best finish prior to the U.S Open came at the Quail Hollow Championship when he tied for second. He also tied for third place at the Buick Invitational. But Glover's career is now forever changed. He is a U.S Open Champion. He becomes, at least for the near future, a draw on the PGA tour.
I wrote on Saturday night that this tournament needed saving. Between David Duval and Phil Mickleson it turned from a stop and go weekend round into a Major championship. It finally had that feel. It finally had emotion and non-weather intrigue. Playoff or not, theirs always something special about Monday golf. It feels like a bonus. A Monday can turn a tournament on it's side. Last year's Monday at the Open made a great tournament legendary. This years Monday turned a lack-luster tournament into a good one. Will it be remembered for years to come? Probably not. The only way that could have happened would have been a Mickleson win, but golf fans should still take solice in the fact that a Major was saved from itself on the last day.
Next stop on Tour: Travelers Championship- Theirs not much to expect from the weekend after a major. Here are what I'll be following: Stewart Cink returns to defend his crown. Rickey Barns will try to pretend that he didn't play on Monday at Bethpage. Stuart Appleby looks to finish what he started at the St. Jude. Vijay Singh will continue the struggle to pretend he's not old. After over 20 years as a pro and not one top five finish this year, Vijay is counting the days until he can play with the seniors and feel young again....and Brian Gay attempts to kill his competition in another non-major.
Next Major: The British- July 16 through 19