Glover comes out of hibernation

Brian Murphy
Giants' closer Brian Wilson proved a player with a beard can do big things in baseball. And now Lucas Glover has done the same in professional golf

Jim Nantz opened the broadcast by saying Quail Hollow on a Sunday had a “major championship feel.” And then Lucas Glover won the Wells Fargo Championship, and I had to stop and think for a good minute before realizing: Hey, Lucas Glover has won a major! Bet you forgot, too.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion’s win at Bethpage Black was marred by that mucky, muddy Monday finish, and by the fact that not many people outside of South Carolina, the Clemson Alumni Donors or Glover’s Book Club – an avid reader, Lucas – knew who Lucas Glover was.

And Glover obliged golf fans’ amnesia by essentially disappearing for the last two years since.

In fact, Glover hadn’t won since that national championship. Outside of a third at last year’s Players Championship, his game had such an incognito feel, his Grizzly Adams-like beard fit nicely with the image of a guy whose golf game was on the lam, hiding from authorities.

A few months ago, Glover’s beard was so bushy, so like San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, Justin Rose sent a photo of Glover’s hairy mug out on Twitter, with the caption: “Winning a U.S. Open – so easy a caveman can do it.”

Amusing, yes. Even then, when I stared at the photo, I couldn’t place who the bearded man was. Angel Cabrera? No. Geoff Ogilvy? No way. Graeme McDowell? The ladies like McDowell too much for the Ulsterman to dare mess with his mug.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever came up with the answer as to who the Zach Galifianakis-like character was in the photo. That’s how obscure Glover’s major was – or how easily it slipped, at least, from my mind.

Nothing against Glover, mind you. He truly seems a likeable character, well-read, intelligent, in good humor, etc. But on a weekend when we mourned the loss of the incomparable Seve Ballesteros, who was all energy and élan and daring, Glover’s fairway/green/two-putt style of play doesn’t put anybody in mind of Severiano.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Now, though, Glover has done two things: 1. He has won again, putting him back in our minds; doing so with a playoff “W” over fellow Clemson Tiger Jonathan Byrd after a Sunday 69, capping four rounds in the 60s; and 2. He has won sporting that beard.

The mind races for thoughts of the last truly bearded golfer to win on the PGA Tour. Honestly, sports fans, I’m coming up blank. Do we have to go all the way back to Old Tom Morris, who sported a beard that appeared to house field mice?

If, indeed, Glover is the first full-bearded golfer – let’s not count mustaches, or goatees or Van Dykes – we must ask: What’s with the “fear of the beard” in golf circles?

In baseball, any number of great players from the past sported full beards: Dave Parker, Gene Garber and Lamarr Hoyt come to mind. In today’s game, the Giants’ Wilson is one of many. In the NBA, whether Bill Walton’s red-headed cheek scrub or Bill Wennington’s Canadian fur, the beard has been honored. Heck, in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the beard is exalted.

But in golf, you get the feeling The Man – who is always clean-shaven, we might add – frowns on the beard. You keep waiting for the beard-wearer to have his membership privileges revoked at “the club.” Wearing a Glover-like beard must be, to the old guard, like parking in the club president’s spot.

Count me as one who endorses the Glover beard. Any number of new looks is shaking up the golf establishment, from Hunter Mahan’s glam-rock shades to Rickie Fowler’s straight-brim lids, and golf needs the infusion of youth and hipness. Khaki pants and collared shirts can only take you so far with the kids of today, who are watching the X Games, playing video games and not wanting to dress like an accountant.

As golf searches for its next star in the post-Tiger world, the least the boys can do in the meantime is entertain us. If that means looking like Rasputin, so be it.

Scorecard of the week

67-65-70-75 – 11-under 277, Pat Perez, tie-6th, Wells Fargo Championship, Quail Hollow G.C.

Few golfers on tour entertain like Pat Perez. He revs hot, and his game is compelling, in a Billy Martin-Lou Piniella-base throwing kind of way. He plays fast, swings fast, doesn’t mind partying or hanging out with John Daly and wears his emotions on his sponsored sleeve.

So when Perez came to Quail Hollow on Sunday morning one shot out of the lead, in the final twosome with Byrd, fireworks seemed guaranteed one way or another.

Unfortunately for Perez, the pyrotechnics were inside his head, as he shot a disappointing 75 – bogeying 16, 17 and 18 – to miss a chance at his second win. For all his talents, and for being a regular on tour for a decade now since winning Q-School in December 2001, Perez’s total of one career win – the 2009 Bob Hope – has to grind at him.

Of course, things grind at one less when one has earned over $11 million in career earnings, as has Perez, but still.

Once again, Perez couldn’t restrain the blunt force part of his personality when asked about his Sunday 75. A questioner tried to spin positive, telling Perez he had to be “feel good” with his third top-10 in the last four weeks.

Quoth Perez: “Well, it just proves that I can’t close, so I’m pretty confident on that … that’s just terrible. Embarrassing.”

Honestly? We appreciate the honesty, Pat. Seriously. It helps to know that the best in the world can get as flummoxed by the devil’s own game as we do.

Mulligan of the week

• With no obvious screaming candidates for Mully of the Week, let’s go back to the above interview and coach up the questioner. You know you have a simmering Perez coming to the microphone, and you know he’s just blown a chance at a win with a 75, so there’s no spinning positive.

Let’s reload the questioner’s playbook, have him or her open with a more Perez-friendly question like, “Dude, how bad did you suck today?” and … give that interviewer a mulligan!

Broadcast moment of the week

“[One minute of silence’” – 12:08 p.m. Pacific time, CBS.

The tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros was a lovely touch, orchestrated by the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and Champions Tour to occur concurrently. Nice that the American-based tours would do this for a player who so embodied European golf, and did almost all of his playing on his home continent – only four of Seve’s 88 international wins were regular PGA Tour stops.

The whole weekend of tribute to Seve, I thought, was impressive in its volume and sincerity. Ballesteros, in the end, was a player and a man whose impact exceeded his five major championships (two Masters; three British Opens). By sheer force of his charisma – the eye was always drawn to Seve – and by the power of his Ryder Cup heroism (only Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie have tallied more for Europe than Seve; and not by much), Ballesteros was larger than life.

I often crack Faldo in this space, and I sleep like an infant at night knowing that I am often correct in doing so. In fairness, I must take this space to say Faldo was great this past weekend in remembering his old Ryder Cup teammate, full of anecdotes and good vibes. “The greatest show on Earth,” Faldo called Seve.

And an honorary navy blue Seve sweater to Peter Kostis of CBS, who did a beautiful job linking Seve’s game to today’s players. Kostis noted that Seve’s “creative genius, imagination and recovery skills” live on in Phil Mickelson; that his low hands at address live on in Rickie Fowler; and that the freewheeling abandon in his swing lives on in Bubba Watson.

“The hands,” Kostis said, “were the genius behind Seve Ballesteros.”

Where do we go from here?

• Are you used to this “Players Championship in May” thing yet? This will be the fifth year since the Players moved from its March date, and I’m not sure it’s had the intended effect the tour desired – to give it its own month, away from the Masters, and blow it up into the “fifth major” they’ve always wanted it to be.

The Players will always be what the Players is – a dynamite field, an intriguing, dangerous golf course, and a big-money payday for a winner. No problem with that.

And yes, Tiger Woods, reported to have spent the past couple of weeks in a walking boot since the Masters, has entered. Hard to imagine a limping Tiger, in a place where he’s only won once as a pro (but did pull off that 1994 U.S. Amateur over Trip Kuehne) will be much of a factor this week. Therein lies the intrigue, no?

Already, the Players is off to a good start. The flag of the defending champion flies in a flag circle on the grounds, and South Africa’s Tim Clark has asked that his country’s flag be replaced, to honor Seve, by the flag of Spain.

Nice touch, that.