It was a cloudy and rainy five days at the 109th United States Open Championship, but in the end two Nike Golf athletes brightened Bethpage Black with stellar play in the final round. The Monday finish saw Lucas Glover standing at the podium at day’s end with the trophy in hand, and David Duval silencing his doubters by threatening the lead several times on the back nine and ending up tied for second place.
The championship commenced on Thursday only to have play suspended for the day around 10 a.m. Yours truly arrived at the gate at just about the same time, with a majority of the patrons heading for the exits. Steady rain continued all day and into the evening (intermittent showers, yeah right), leaving the course soggy for play the following day.
Friday saw partly cloudy skies, no rain, and a full day of golf from 7:30 a.m. to sunset. Glover began his championship with a respectable round of 69, which left him five back of first round leader Mike Weir. The second round saw Lucas shooting an impressive 64 (the low second round), finishing round two on Saturday with the lead. He followed that up with an even par 70 in round three, good enough to keep him tied for the lead with Ricky Barnes at -7 going into the final round. They teed up late on Sunday night to begin round four, but with only enough daylight to complete one hole.
Glover began Monday tied for the lead, with play resuming on what was the second hole of his final round. Glover authored a steady performance considering it was the last day of a major championship. With 4 bogeys and one birdie, he fired a 73 in round four that ended up being good enough to hold on for the win, two better than second place finishers Ricky Barnes, David Duval and Phil Mickelson.
David Duval started the championship with an opening round 67, just three off the lead and tied for third place. He followed that up with back-to-back even par 70’s in rounds two and three, consisting of five birdies and five bogeys in round two and three birdies and three bogeys in round three. He started round four late on Sunday with a bogey on #1 and a par on #2 before he ran out of daylight.
Monday started on the tee at #3, where his tee shot landed and buried under the lip of the left greenside bunker, leading to a triple bogey 6. Rather than surrendering right there (as some might have expected) and settling for a possible top 10 finish, he bounced back with a birdie at #4, and after a bogey at #7 he again bounced back with a birdie at #8. Three straight birdies at 14, 15 and 16 put him at -3 and just one off the lead. After a near chip-in at #17 for a fourth straight birdie, his par putt lipped out and he had to settle for bogey, giving Glover a two shot lead with two holes to play. Duval’s birdie putt at 18 was on line but ended just right of the hole, and Duval ended up at -2 and tied for second place. The second place finish was amazing in most people’s minds, but in post-round interviews Duval stated he was happy with his performance but disappointed with the loss – an indication that he feels he should have won the tournament and that he’s close to winning again.
Seeing Lucas Glover come away with the win was not a total surprise, although I didn’t see him contending for the title at the start of the week. His T2 at the Quail Hollow Championship in early May was a sign that that he can compete with the premier players on tour, and that he’s not afraid to be in the mix on Sunday at a marquis event. I also remember seeing him at the FBR Open a few years back, slamming his putter angrily into his bag after back-to-back bogeys — I feel that kind of competitive fire is a necessary component in a major champion.
Although Glovers’ win is an inspiring story – southern gentleman turned major champion – the biggest story of the 2009 U.S. Open is David Duval’s comeback from #882 in the world rankings to a T2 finish in a major championship. I’ve gone on record as saying I thought that success was coming, but I didn’t think we would see such great play out of David at a major so soon. I did feel that we were close to witnessing him put four solid rounds together, and I still feel he’ll win a PGA Tour event this year. Duval’s performance this past week, and especially in the final round on Monday, shows that he’s very close to being back to his winning self. It’s like he jumped in a time machine and reverted to the player he was 10 years ago – although that time machine is actually five years of hard work.
You can see it in David’s eyes and in his calm, steady demeanor over every shot, the same way he handled his game 10 years ago. Back then, some called it aloof and impersonal – I called it focus. My Dad and I would debate about this, as I was (and still am) a big Duval fan. The evidence his game has returned is in his increasingly accurate iron play and precise putting, both of which have been improving all year. His birdies down the stretch in Monday’s final round on 14, 15 and 16 in the heat of battle are evidence that his confidence is on the rise also.
David Duval’s improving swing mechanics, solid putting and increasing confidence are a winning combination. All I’ll say is look out at Turnberry in July, and especially at Augusta next April.