FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — One by one, the fan favorites fell as the galleries groaned down the stretch at the 109th U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. And, yes, even David Duval, the world’s 882nd-ranked player. Each of them, and others, tumbled until only Lucas Glover was left needing just two putts from 4 feet to claim his first major.
Glover drained the first one and the soggy championship that didn’t want to end was finally finished on its fifth day on Monday. There were no fist pumps like Woods’ epic victory at Torrey Pines a year ago. Just an exhausted Glover looking around, seemingly as shocked as the rest of us that an OK player with one victory in his six-year PGA Tour career had just done what he actually did.
“I looked at the scoreboard to see if it was really happening,” said Glover, whose 4-under 276 was two shots better than Mickelson, Duval and 54-hole leader Ricky Barnes. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Woods, who won here in 2002, was on the brink of a Tiger Moment when he got within three shots with back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14. But a bulky putter and a bogey on 15 ended his chances. He shot 1-under 69 and tied for sixth at even par.
Mickelson tied for the lead at 4 under after sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on 12 and a 4-footer for eagle on 13. He missed a three-footer for par on 15, but was still tied for the lead with Glover and Duval at 3 under when he stepped on the 17th tee.
Unfortunately for Mickelson, he missed the green on the par 3, chipped to 8 feet and then missed the par putt en route to 70 and a U.S. Open-record fifth second-place finish.
Duval began the day on the par 3 third hole after the round was suspended Sunday night because of darkness. A buried lie against the lip of the bunker led to a triple bogey and an eight-shot deficit heading to the fourth hole.
The guy who hadn’t won since the 2001 British Open or had a top 10 finish in seven years appeared to be done for the day. But three consecutive birdies gave him a share of the lead through 16 holes.
Unfortunately for Duval, a 4-foot par putt on 17 caught the left edge, dipped halfway into the hole and spun to the other side of the hole. Duval did, however, climb to 142nd in the world later Monday evening.
“I’m certainly happy with how I played, but extremely disappointed in the outcome,” Duval said. “I had no question in my mind I was going to win.”
Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur champion, fell apart during a front-nine 40. He started hooking the ball badly and couldn’t stop until after four consecutive bogeys turned a one-shot lead into a two-shot deficit heading to the ninth hole. He shot 76.
“I just didn’t settle down very well,” said Barnes, whose best finish in 35 PGA Tour events before this week was a tie for 14th. “Those four bogeys in a row were pretty sour.”
Glover didn’t play all that well, either. He shot 73 – the highest in a final round by a winner since Ernie Els in 1994 – and made only one birdie. But, in his defense, he didn’t lose the lead from the seventh hole on, and his birdie couldn’t have come at a better time.
Tied with Mickelson and Duval, Glover hit the fairway at the 16th. After a perfect 8-iron to 6 feet, he made the putt and never lost sole possession of the lead again.
Just to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid, Glover took advantage of Bethpage’s weak 18th hole, a par 4 that was playing 364 yards, by hitting 6-iron off the tee and 9-iron safely onto the green.
“I’d be lying to say I wasn’t nervous,” said Glover, a soft-spoken, slow-talking 29-year-old from Greenville, S.C. “I had the knees knocking pretty good on 16, 17 and 18. But I pulled it off.”
Not bad for a guy whose best finish in a major before Monday was a tie for 20th at the 2007 Masters. Or a guy who had to go through sectional qualifying just to get here. Or a guy who read as many murder mysteries (three) during the rain delays as U.S. Opens he had played in before this one.
“This,” Glover joked, “makes me 1 for 4 in cuts made at the U.S. Open.”
Not many guys get their name on the trophy right next to Woods the first time they make the cut.
“I’m as happy as I can be to be on there,” he said before cracking a smile. “I just hope I don’t downgrade it or anything with my name on there.”