From ‘no control,’ Lucas Glover is now a back-to-back winner
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Moves to fourth in FedExCup with playoff win at FedEx St. Jude Championship
Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Lucas Glover will look you in the eye and tell you that, even during his most difficult days, he never considered quitting. He says it slowly and purposefully, in a way that makes it clear that this is not revisionist history or a new story conjured up in light of his recent success.
Sure, there were days where it was difficult to come to the course. And times he considered taking a hiatus as he searched for cures. But quitting?
That was not an option.
He is now being rewarded for his resiliency, for enduring a decade-long bout with the yips, the malady that makes the game’s simplest strokes the most terrifying. It was a struggle that Glover describes as “debilitating.”
“I had no control over my faculties,” he said, “and that was difficult to understand and difficult to deal with.”
Glover never gave up and now he’s playing arguably the greatest golf of his career. Yes, he won a major championship more than a decade ago, but he now has more victories in his 40s (3) than his 20s (2). It’s a testament to his longevity and also a surprising statistic, considering his standout career at Clemson.
He was a highly-touted prospect when he arrived on the PGA TOUR at age 24. Twenty years later, he’s in the midst of the first multiple-win season of his career. He has won back-to-back PGA TOUR events and finished sixth or better in five of his past six starts.
“A lesser man would have quit a long time ago,” said his college coach, Larry Penley. “He made enough money. He had a good career. He didn’t have to put himself through all that crap, but he found a way.”
Glover is the second-oldest player in this year’s FedExCup Playoffs, surpassed in age only by Matt Kuchar, but Sunday he beat several of the game’s biggest stars to win the FedEx St. Jude Championship. He outlasted Patrick Cantlay, winner of the 2021 FedExCup and three of the previous five Playoffs events, in a sudden-death playoff. Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood shared third place, one stroke back, with Jordan Spieth and Max Homa also among the challengers.
Lucas Glover's news conference after winning FedEx St. Jude Championship
Outside the top 100 in the FedExCup two weeks ago, Glover will arrive at the BMW Championship ranked fourth in the standings. He also is expected to move to 30th in the world ranking, his highest ranking since 2010.
“Maybe I'm really stubborn,” he said. “You know, (the last) 10 years up until this run, I've underachieved and knew it. It was all because of putting. It was just believing in myself, and (being) hard-headed and stubborn enough to not give up.
“It took something drastic to figure it out, but it's worked.”
Glover’s renaissance has been fueled by his switch to a long putter in June. He was running out of options. The only remaining recourse if that didn’t work was a switch to putting left-handed.
The long putter quickly provided relief, and it was especially beneficial Sunday. The same resiliency that kept him going was necessary Sunday, which he described as a survival test.
Glover made three putts outside 10 feet over the final nine holes at TPC Southwind, and all of them were for par or bogey. He holed a 20-foot par putt on 13, then made a 30-footer for bogey after hitting his tee shot into the water on the par-3 14th. Then there was the 11-foot par save on the 17th hole to remain tied with Cantlay.
Glover had just birdied the par-5 16th to regain a share of the lead that he had held since Friday. He had to get up-and-down from 57 yards on the next hole, however, after driving into the left rough. Glover hit the fairway and the green at 18 and faced a 23-footer for the win but left it just short.
Cantlay teed off first in the playoff. His tee shot bounced into the pond lining the left side of the fairway, setting the stage for Glover to step up and do what he does best. The former U.S. Open champion has long been known as one of the TOUR’s top ballstrikers. Glover hit the fairway and the green to win for a second consecutive week.
“Anybody who's ever listened to him hit a golf ball knows he's different,” said Homa.
Glover had to rely on a different part of his game Sunday, however.
He hit just half the greens Sunday, but his only bogey came after he pushed his tee shot into the water on the par-3 14th. He led the field in scrambling for the week, getting up-and-down 23 times in 26 opportunities. And he was 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting, gaining 2.8 strokes on Sunday alone. He one-putted his first four greens and needed just 25 putts in the final round.
Lucas Glover’s Round 4 winning highlights from FedEx St. Jude Championship
His caddie, Tom Lamb, described Glover’s back nine as “gritty.”
Penley describes his former player as an “intense competitor” and an old-school type with a deep passion for the game. He still doesn’t wear a glove, dunking his hands into ice coolers during the final round to keep them from sweating. While other players warmed up with launch monitors and training aids Sunday, there was Glover on the range with nothing more than an alignment stick at his feet.
He waggles the club before starting his long, low takeaway that keeps the club hovering above the grass much longer than most his peers. His whiplash transition produces enough lag to make Ben Hogan blush. It’s a swing that has looked the same for decades, and still works in an age of biomechanics and advanced analytics. Glover arrived at TPC Southwind ranked seventh in Driving Accuracy and first in average proximity to the hole on approach shots.
Penley tells a story about the time Glover fired two teammates’ football about 75 yards down Clemson’s driving range after growing frustrated that their game of catch was encroaching on his practice. This anecdote illustrates two things. His work ethic and his athleticism, traits that have served him well during a long career that just now may be reaching its culmination. It’s a vocation he professes to love, even though it has produced plenty of anguish.
“I just like the journey,” he said. What a journey it’s been.
Sean Martin is a senior editor for the PGA TOUR. He is a 2004 graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Attending a small school gave him a heart for the underdog, which is why he enjoys telling stories of golf's lesser-known players. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.