By Jeff Falconio
Lucas Glover is the national champion. A most improbable U.S. Open wrapped up with a most improbable winner. Patience was needed in a major billed as golf's toughest test. With rain cutting through half the tournament, the U.S. Open was extended an extra day but it was worth the wait.
Usually, the USGA goes out of its way to make the U.S. Open as difficult as possible, meaning the final round is about surviving the day rather than seizing the moment. But with the rain that fell, the greens at New York's Bethpage Black were firm and inviting, opening the door for scoring opportunities. As such player after player made a charge at the leaderboard, starting with the ever-present Tiger Woods.
However, this was not a typical U.S. Open and it wasn't just because of the weather. This required some imagination. Imagine Tiger's frustration when he did all he could possibly do but the putts just weren't dropping for him. Had Woods played in the sun instead of the rain early on he might've retained his crown. But Woods dug himself a hole and sometimes the breaks don't go you're way, even if you're the world's best.
Imagine what was going through the mind of Ricky Barnes after throwing up the lowest 36 hole score in Open history. Imagine having to wait for what seemed like forever to get the final round underway, only to stumble through two holes, then go home Sunday night to sleep on the fact that he squandered his lead. Not surprising, Barnes finished the final round with a +6 76.
Imagine the emotion Phil Mickleson is feeling. Lefty was the gallery favorite this week and like Woods he made a back nine charge thanks to an eagle on the 12th. But again it wasn't in the cards as Mickleson missed two key putts down the stretch to finish runner-up yet again. But this all serves as child's play for Mickleson after the announcement that his wife has breast cancer. It would've been a great ending for Phil, but this was not typical major.
How un-typical? Imagine David Duval's mindset. At one point Duval was on his way to being Tiger's counterpart but instead he spent most of the decade as a running joke. It's as if you'd expect Duval's face to be on a milk carton under the caption "have you seen this boy?" But there he was, churning out birdies on the back nine and making the charge he should've made a long time ago. However, like Mickleson, his putter failed him down the stretch.
So for all the heavyweights it was Glover doing what U.S. Open winners do in the final round...don't get cute, grind out pars and when the opportunity comes along, grab it by the horns. So when Glover drained a birdie putt on 16 to give him some breathing room, there was no doubt. It was the usual way to win a most unusual major.