Green

Glover could reinvent himself as a winner

STAFF WRITERJune 22, 2009 

If you can get beneath the cap that's always pulled low over Lucas Glover's face, you might find the next U.S. Open champion.

Glover begins what could be the biggest day of his golf life today, tied with Ricky Barnes for the Open lead with 16 potentially life-changing holes to play.

He knows what people are thinking. Someone else is going to win.

Glover spent a long Sunday with Barnes, a contemporary from their college days, and heard the mud-spattered New York crowd cheering for the big, blond guy in the brown and blue plaid pants and painter's cap.

Glover, wearing bluish gray, kept his head down and kept playing.

"He's got cooler pants than me," Glover said when asked late Sunday if he was surprised by the crowd's support of Barnes.

Jerry Seinfeld couldn't have delivered the line with better timing nor with that deep, Southern drawl that makes Glover sound like he should be coaching SEC football.

"I don't think there's very many people that think I can or will [win] anyway," he said, "so that's fine."

What does Glover think?

"That's my opinion and I'll keep it," he said, a slight smile on his face.

Glover, who graduated from Clemson in 2001 and lives in Greenville, S.C., keeps to himself on the golf course, his face hidden beneath his cap. But he knows what's going on.

When he won his only PGA Tour event -- the 2005 Funai Classic at Walt Disney World -- Glover was amused by the general perception that he's, well, a redneck.

"Perception and reality are two completely different things," Larry Penley, Glover's golf coach at Clemson, said. "He's a very deep, complex, diverse person -- one of my favorites."

Glover, 29, has a wide range of interests, starting with -- but not limited to -- Clemson athletics. He can talk fluently about Clemson football and take you through the depth chart, if needed.

He also likes music and has been known to flip on classical stuff from time to time. He knows his way around good wine and good food.

Since arriving in New York this week, Glover has read four novels and was looking for another to start Sunday night.

Asked what he has read, Glover said, "Oh man ... [Clive] Cussler, two Stuart Woods, and 'The Lost City of Z.' I recommend that one."

This time a year ago, Glover's game was going the wrong way. Though he won more than $900,000, he was in his own way. Finally, late in the year, he shut it down and came back refreshed this year.

Glover tied for third at the Buick Invitational in February and tied for second at the Quail Hollow Championship. He has had several chances to win since 2005, but final rounds have been more trouble than road work.

He's blessed with a loose, natural athleticism that you can see in his walk. Broad-shouldered and long-armed, Glover has the look of a guy who could play any sport he wanted.

"We were practicing one day when a football showed up on the driving range," Penley recalled. "Lucas was kind of agitated about it, and the football finally rolled near him.

"He picked it up and threw it about 75 yards on a frozen rope. Practice just stopped, and Jonathan Byrd [also a PGA Tour player] said, 'Do it again, do it again.' A football game broke out."

Glover could have fallen away Sunday in the weather-delayed third round when he bogeyed the sixth hole and double-bogeyed the seventh, suddenly finding himself seven strokes behind Barnes. When you're going the wrong way in the U.S. Open, it's hard to find the brakes.

But Glover managed it Sunday, shaking off a bad decision and a couple of poor swings on his first nine holes, then making three birdies on the back nine to put himself in the final pairing today.

Standing on a podium outside the Bethpage clubhouse late Sunday afternoon, waiting to start the final round, Glover looked out from under his hat and entertained the media with his deadpan delivery.

If he was nervous, it didn't show.

"It's the new me," Glover said, walking off the podium.

Today, he could be reinvented again.

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5118

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