The 2009 United States Open golf championship at Bethpage Black will be remembered most for:
• A) The floods swamping the greens all week, inspiring a new action-movie screenplay: "When Squeegees Attack!";
• B) The incredibly emotional run of Phil Mickelson, ending in familiar golf tragedy, and the Line of the Year when, presented with the USGA having only one runner-up medal for three runners-up, Lefty demurred, saying: "I've got four of 'em. I'm good";
• C) The re-emergence of David Duval from a cave of obscurity, giving us faith in the comeback of the human spirit, and the faith to totally abandon our no-workout guilt, as Duval finally did; or
• D) Dan Jenkins on Twitter.
I'm not kidding. If you missed it, the Greatest Golf Writer Ever, His Ownself, did something Billy Clyde Puckett never would have: He tweeted. Leave it to Jenkins to turn140 characters into a form of art, with nary a "U" for 'you,' and nary a "2" for 'to.' The man respects the English language. A couple of small examples: "Four bogeys in a row for Barnes, and he's earned all four." Or: "Bogey by Tiger at 10, despite the announcers pulling so hard for him they've developed hernias." Or: "I'll sleep well tonight. I'm not sure about everyone on the leader board." Or: "If you're scoring, Sean O'Hair is Low Apostrophe."
Jenkins, dubbed 'The Ancient Twitterer,' will do it again from Turnberry.
Did we forget anything else?
Oh, yeah! That's right. The winner!
Sorry about that.
Good for you, Lucas Glover. You're a Southern gentleman, you're a voracious reader, you grow emotional at the memory of your late swing coach Dick Harmon, you publicly offer at the trophy ceremony to pay gas money for your cousins who road tripped up on Monday to cheer you on, you're a "Seinfeld" junkie, you're self-deprecating ("I hope I don't downgrade this trophy with my name on there") … and you have the dubious distinction of being Not Phil Mickelson at the '09 U.S. Open.
The indelible images from a Monday finish won't be any of Glover's 73 strokes. They will always be, in highlight reels forever, linked with Pinehurst and Shinnecock and Winged Foot: Phil's 2nd at the par-5 13th, nearly knocking Bethpage off its axis; or Phil's eagle putt at the 13th, knocking Bethpage off its axis; or Phil's missed 3-footer for par at the 15th, knocking Bethpage to its knees; or Phil's missed 8-footer for par at the 17th, knocking the wind out of the public state park.
As Johnny Miller said so plaintively on NBC: "They wanted it for him so bad … so bad."
Into the void walked Glover, with nothing memorable about him. His outfit was plain – white hat tugged low, white polo shirt, khaki pants – his expression unchangeable. When he arrived at the 18th tee box with a two-shot lead, the stunned fans gave him only a smattering of applause, something more akin to a Thursday afternoon at the Funai Disney Classic, which, by the way, was the only tournament Glover ever won, way back in 2005. Only minutes earlier, they blew out their lungs cheering for Phil.
Sometimes, golf does that to you. You wish and you hope and you cheer and, sometimes, you get a little lump in your throat thinking about the great storylines to be written by the legendary players … and then Ben Curtis wins the British Open. Or Shaun Micheel wins the PGA. Or Trevor Immelman wins the Masters.
Or Lucas Glover wins the U.S. Open.
And you have to find your own joy for that person, for that Immelman or Curtis or Micheel or Glover, even though you hadn't given them a moment's thought four days prior.
It's happened twice this year already, this Golf Quirk, and we've only played two majors. At Augusta in April, all eyes were on Tiger Woods and Phil, and when neither won, all eyes turned to the sentimental favorite, Kenny Perry. Instead, Angel Cabrera is ordering some of Argentina's finest beef for the Champions Dinner.
It's not fair to these players who achieve a lifetime's dream, to be relegated to the "Not Phil" or "Not Tiger" category of forgotten major champions. But it is golf's cross to bear, that the game features so many talented players and so many players in each major, that the odds of a legendary champion winning aren't a lock.
In the NBA Finals, a random team – say, the Memphis Grizzlies – won't kiss the Larry O'Brien Trophy, not without a season's worth of great play and a stunning playoff run that readies sports fans for it. In the Super Bowl, a random team – say, the Houston Texans – won't kiss the Vince Lombardi Trophy without play that makes us notice them by Thanksgiving, and then a January run that makes us ready ourselves for the possibility of "Houston Texans, Super Bowl Champions."
Eww. Doesn't that sound weird?
But the Golf Quirk does this to us. It gives us Lucas Glover.
I say if we love the sport, and love the unforgettable drama of the major championships, we embrace the Quirk. We admire the tenacity and heart and nerve-rattling brilliance it takes to play 72 holes at Bethpage better than Phil Mickelson, or Tiger Woods, or David Duval.
Lucas Glover may be The Invisible Man to a nation of fans waiting for Phil, but he has his own story, and attention must be paid. He learned the game from his Grandpa, who played football at Clemson. He said he read four books during the week. He loves Frank Sinatra. He saw "The Producers" on his New York City honeymoon with his wife. He loves Clemson football. He is from South Carolina, and with an 8-iron in his hand, from 176 yards, on the 70th hole at Bethpage, he hit it to six feet and made birdie. He hit iron off the tee on 18 with a two-shot lead, proving he is smart enough to win a major and smarter than, yes, Jean van de Velde.
He had no history coming in, so you are forgiven for not knowing him. He had never made a cut at a national championship; never made a top-10 at a major. But now, Lucas Glover is the United States Open champion, and that counts for something, something unforgettable.
Scorecard of the week
• 67-70-70-71 – 278, 2-under par, tie-2nd, David Duval, 2009 U.S. Open.
With all respect to Cabrera and Glover, major champions, and with all respect to Tiger and Phil, who move the needle like no other, my money for most admirable stretch of golf at this year's majors was David Duval's absolutely mind-blowing birdies on 14, 15 and 16 down the stretch at Bethpage.
David Duval! With a hat trick of birdies! To tie for the lead!
Maybe you didn't hear me: David Duval!
Duval hadn't been seen since the 2001 British Open, when he won at Lytham and then had his Peggy Lee moment, asking himself: "Is that all there is?"
Watching his deadly golf swing and bloodless efficiency, as if he hadn't disappeared for a decade and as if he had been doing it every week, made me miss David Duval more than ever. I don't know if this run at Bethpage will launch anything brilliant for Duval – probably not, given the game's ridiculously fickle nature – but I do know the game needs Duval. Maybe it's just me, but I believe the vintage Duval may be one of the only players left on the planet who would not choose to shrink if paired with Tiger in the final twosome at a major.
He's a complex man who thinks complex thoughts, worth hearing from in an interview room; and equally worth watching on the back nine at a major. He has the moxie to overcome the World's Worst Lie on a bunker plug to open play Monday on the 3rd hole, leading to a crippling triple bogey, and answer with that birdie binge on 14-15-16, expression never changing, like he expected it all the while. His horseshoed par putt on 17 was golf's evil nature personified, but as he said afterwards of his bad breaks: "They were bad breaks, but everybody had them, too." That's Duval.
The guy's story is worth a movie; from solitary, shades-wearing enigma to the top of the golf world, from a huge tumble in golf to personal happiness in a marriage with children, to a roaring comeback and damn-near national championship with the world watching. The 882nd-ranked player in the world did pretty good for himself.
Welcome back, David Duval. Stay a while.
Broadcast moment of the week
• "Tiger must be looking at this and thinking: 'Oh, man. I could have won this thing half-blindfolded. What did I do?'" – Johnny Miller, NBC.
What to make of Tiger's 74-69-68-69 U.S. Open and tie for 6th?
One analysis would say that Tiger's 4-under last 54 holes show he's still the world's best, and only a fluky 4-over finish in his last four holes on Thursday ruined his bid for his 15th major championship. To that, Tiger defenders can say, you can chalk up bad luck – having to play in Thursday's ugly rainstorms, while the rest of the leaders played on Friday, in calm conditions.
Another analysis would say that Tiger is now 0 for 2 in majors, at places where he's won in the past, and that's weird, and unlike the cold-blooded killer we've all come to admire and fear from afar.
Tiger Defenders would say: You can't say his 0 for 2 at this year's majors is like any other 0 for 2, considering he is still less than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery. Moreover, he is one of only three players this year to post top-10s at both Augusta National and Bethpage, with Mickelson and Hunter Mahan the other two, and neither of them had reconstructive knee surgery less than a year ago.
The opposite analysis would say Tiger's missed makeable putts on the back nine – the kind of putts that have made him the world's most famous athlete and allow him to wear red on Sundays like he owns the joint – are finally proof that, as the golf veterans have been saying for a while, there's no rule saying Tiger's putts have to fall all the time. That's why getting from 14 majors to 19 majors is not a fait accompli.
Then again, there's always a Dan Jenkins tweet to put things in perspective. From the Ancient Twitterer: "Tiger, take that putter and drag it out of the back end of the limo on the drive to the airport. Trust me, you'll feel better."
Tiger's Defenders would add: Guess what? He's 33 years old. His knee is healing. He's still Tiger, and everybody knows it. He'll fly to Turnberry next month, and he'll be the favorite.
And they'll be right.
Mulligan of the week
• I had pondered awarding this Mully of the Week to Ricky Barnes, who needed an entire re-set of his fourth round. Even though he wound up making an all-world par from the fescue on No. 2, after sleeping on his merciless lie all Sunday night, his round was still feeling rushed, weird, and out of sorts. Barnes is a likable kid from Stockton, Calif., a charismatic sort who the golf world needs, and to watch him lose the moment in his final 18 holes – carding a 76 when he once led the U.S. Open by six shots – was a tough thing to take, and made me want to say … give that man a mulligan!
But in the course of writing this column, my thoughts turn more and more to David Duval. His out-of-this-world comeback may have been entirely different if that tee shot on No. 3 didn't draw The Lie From Hell. I mean, seriously. Republicans would not wish that lie on President Obama. It was wicked, plugged, buried and had triple bogey written all over it. Thing was, Duval's tee shot wasn't that bad. The lie was 1,000 times worse than the shot. And it had triple bogey written all over it.
So let's go back to that 3rd tee, to the re-start on Monday, and … give that man a mulligan!
Where do we go from here?
• Who cares, really? I mean, the tour heads to Connecticut, and Lucas Glover is scheduled to play, but we'll all still be re-living the floods, the Lefty heartache, the Duval sightings, the Tiger misses, the Jenkins tweets and the New York fans. Garcon, cue the TiVo!
- David Duval
- Lucas Glover
- Tiger Woods