|CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When they were Clemson Tiger teammates, one of them had considerably more hair; one of them, much less.
In those days, they battled against common opponents. On Sunday, May 8 at Quail Hollow Club, they battled each other. The one with all the hair came out on top.
Lucas Glover, sporting a full beard, holed a slippery downhill four-footer for par on the first extra hole to defeat former Tiger teammate Jonathan Byrd.
After a battle of former Clemson teammates, Jonathan Byrd (left) congratulates Lucas Glover on his playoff victory in the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
With that putt, Glover capped a drought-breaking victory in the Wells Fargo Championship after both he and Byrd finished at 15-under-par 273, just one shot off the record for a tournament that is now nine years old.
Glover hadn’t won on the PGA Tour since he claimed the U.S. Open title in 2009. Worse yet, he hadn’t made a cut in his last three starts coming to Quail Hollow Club, having packed up early at Houston, the Masters and two weeks ago at Hilton Head Island.
But the player who these days looks more like Grizzly Adams than the guy who hoisted the trophy at Bethpage Black nearly two years ago gutted out a couple of testing pars on two of the toughest closing holes on Tour, then holed the downhill slider in the playoff to defeat his good friend and former teammate.
Byrd – whom we’ll call follicly-challenged at age 33 – got into the playoff by making only the third birdie of the day at the uphill, 478-yard 18th hole at the end of regulation play. Not only was 18 the hardest hole of the day, but it traditionally is one of the hardest finishing holes on Tour year after year.
But in the playoff, Byrd pushed his drive into a fairway bunker to the right, then pulled his second left of a creek to the left of the green. By all rights, the ball should have found the water, but defied gravity, stopping on a severe downslope. Byrd’s attempted recovery went well past the hole, and he two-putted for bogey.
Glover, who had struggled to make par on the 72nd hole after a wild drive to the left of the creek, played the playoff hole perfectly. A drive to the center of the fairway and an approach in the 20-foot range seemed to be enough for the player who had not three-putted on Quail Hollow’s near-perfect, but lightning-fast greens all week.
In the end, it would be, but only after Glover coaxed in the tester.
Glover and Byrd were teammates at Clemson for three years, where they overlapped with D.J. Trahan and Charles Warren, who were also in the field at the Wells Fargo.
Glover, who will turn 32 later this year, was a first-team All-American in 2000 and 2001 and was a member of two NCAA runner-up teams (1998 and 2001). Byrd Was an All-America selection in three of his four years at Clemson, including first team in 1999, when he also was named to the academic first team.
Glover said his relationship with Byrd helped relax him in the playoff.
“I think I had some calmness there because Jonathan and I are so close,” Glover said. “We grew up playing junior golf, (we were) teammates, and I saw him when he came off 18 there on the putting green, gave him a hug, and we just both said, ‘Great playing; see you in a second,’ and it was kind of a calmness. I can't speak for him, but that's how it was for me.”
Byrd was looking for his second victory of the season after winning the first event of the year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Oddly enough, last year’s tournament at Quail Hollow came right in the middle of six straight missed cuts, but since that mini-slump, Byrd has missed just five cuts and won twice in 23 starts.
“It did feel odd a little bit,” Byrd said of the playoff against his friend. “You know, when I got on the tee, I just tried to treat it like--we had a match on Tuesday (in a practice round) where Lucas and I paired up against Charles Warren and Davis Love. We played 18 holes, and I had a putt on the last hole to halve the match from about 15 feet, and I wanted to make that putt just as bad as I wanted to make that putt in regulation. I told my caddie walking up, I said, ‘It's just like that putt we made on Tuesday, when I birdied 18 in regulation.’ I said, ‘Let's make it again.’
“So it was just the same process, you know, and I felt just as good walking off the green on Tuesday as I did today. So any time you play a match, we're super-competitive, so we're trying to win those matches just like we're trying to win today.”
Had Glover and Byrd stumbled even slightly coming down the stretch, the playoff would have had a third contender.
Rory Sabbatini, who started eight shots behind and one hour and 10 minutes ahead of Byrd (the 54-hole leader) posted a blemish-free, seven-birdie 65, the low round of the day by two shots over Trevor Immelman’s 67. Three straight “3’s” to start the day set the pace.
Then, after a birdie 4 at 10, this year’s Honda Classic champion went 3-3-4-3-3 starting at 13, the three scores in the middle of that run representing birdies.
Midway leader Pat Perez, who started the third round just a shot behind Byrd, jumped out to a quick start with a birdie from close range at the first and into the lead all alone when Byrd bogeyed the same hole. But bogeys at two of the next three holes started his demise. And after two shots into the water at the par-5 seventh led to double bogey and an outward 39, Perez was no longer a factor.
To a lesser degree, local favorite Davis Love III, who was born in Charlotte and played collegiately at North Carolina, never mounted the charge he would have needed after starting the day just five back. Instead, he followed an errant drive into the right trees with a three-putt to make double at the third, and the 2012 Ryder Cup captain dropped well back before rallying to an even-par 72 and a 9-under 279 total. Still, the T-16 finish was his best since he tied for ninth in the Sony Hawaiian Open back in January, his first start of the year.
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