Lucas Glover had no trouble remembering how to get to East Lake Golf Club earlier this month for the Tour Championship.
But getting back there – earning one of the 30 precious spots in the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs and all that comes with it – well, that was a different story.
A decade removed from his rain-soaked victory in the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and eight years since his last PGA Tour victory at the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship, Glover’s return to East Lake and the Tour Championship was a victory of sorts, even if it didn’t come with a trophy.
It was a triumph of persistence, hard work and a steadfast refusal to accept that the game that had brought him so much had gone permanently missing.
“Ten years, some ups and downs, more downs, unfortunately,” Glover said while at the Tour Championship.
“It’s good to be here. It’s gratifying. The hard work is paying off. I still didn’t win this year but I was closer than I’ve been the last few years. That’s a positive.”
At age 39, Glover is in a far different place than when he won the U.S. Open. He long ago left the comfort of his hometown of Greenville, S.C., and what became his second home on St. Simons Island, Ga., living now in Jupiter, Fla., with his wife, Krista, and their two young children.
He began working with swing coach Tony Ruggiero in the summer of 2016 and gradually the pieces of Glover’s game have fallen back in place. There was no quick nor easy fix – Glover said he also changed trainers, his diet and other things – but where there was once darkness, there is now plenty of light.
“Tony was like a breath of fresh air. It was back to the fundamentals. First lesson we had, he goes, I don’t really care what kind of shot you’re hitting. If you’re aimed way over there, you’re not going to hit the shot you want to hit. I’m trying to hit a hook and aiming it left. It didn’t make any sense,” Glover said.
“First 30 minutes I argued with him on where I was lined up. Anyway, he kind of made it fun. He started making it fun again. We laugh as much as we work and while we work, which has been refreshing because it got way too businesslike, way too serious for me, and that’s not how I ever really approached it when I was playing my best. So that was good.”
By 2014, he was lost in the shadows. He missed the cut in 19 of 26 starts during the 2013-14 season and fell out of the top 125 in FedEx Cup points.
To appreciate what returning to the Tour Championship meant to Glover – it comes with a spot in the 2020 Masters, an event he hasn’t played since 2014, as well as next year’s U.S. Open (Glover’s 10-year exemption for winning expired after the 2019 event) and Open Championship as well as other select tournament fields – it’s worth looking at where he’s been.
After winning the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship with a beard that would impress Paul Bunyan, Glover’s performance gradually declined.
By 2014, he was lost in the shadows. He missed the cut in 19 of 26 starts during the 2013-14 season and fell out of the top 125 in FedEx Cup points. In early 2015, Glover’s world ranking had fallen to 634th and he regained his PGA Tour card via what were then the Web.com Tour Finals later that year.
“That was a pretty bad year,” Glover said.
Putting was the biggest issue. From around 10 feet, Glover was fine. Inside of that, there were no promises, including short ones that tormented him at times. He ranked 184th in strokes gained putting on tour in 2014-15 and the effects spilled across his game.
The next two seasons were better but he slipped back in 2017-18, finishing outside the top 125 again. He returned to the Web.com Tour Finals and finished second in the final event, starting him on the road back to Atlanta.
“If I didn’t have a low point, a reason to get remotivated, I probably wouldn’t be here. For me, having respect for the highs is as important as respecting the lows because they kind of go hand in hand,” Glover said.
“Not a lot of people see how you go from the lows to the highs either. For me, it was good old-fashioned work. I set out a goal to improve my short game, not just putting. I did that.”
Glover finished fifth on the PGA Tour in scrambling this past season, a point of pride.
With a new season set to begin next week, Glover’s schedule will include the tournaments that matter most, tournaments he missed out on in recent years. The unmet goal remains the same – winning again.
Glover has put himself in position to win again because he never lost faith in himself.
“I can say that with confidence because I never once had a day where I’ve said, I’m not that good anymore. I’m not going to practice. If I planned on going, I went,” Glover said.
“I never doubted I could compete again. It’s really, really hard to win as I’ve shown with the year I had and I wasn’t able to come through when it mattered, but I didn’t doubt myself as far as, ‘Can I get back here?’ ”
Lucas Glover says he always believed he could make it back to the upper echelon of the game. Photo: Andrew Redington, Getty Images
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