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In a performance that would have made Seve proud, Lucas Glover ended an almost two-year victory drought at Quail Hollow
Two Clemson alumni chased the sunset on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship, through springtime shadows and overlush, verdant grounds. While there is no indication that Seve Ballesteros was a Clemson fan, he would have loved the gloaming at Quail Hollow Club, seeing Lucas Glover with his ball below his feet and Jonathan Byrd with his ball sitting precariously on a creek bank, and so much pride and emotion on display. All week Glover and Byrd had talked about meeting in the final round with the title at stake. They had competed against each other in countless South Carolina amateur events, shared three years at Clemson and played hundreds of practice rounds together. What was one more tussle between pals?
Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, arrived in Charlotte with his game in retreat, in the middle of a divorce, looking for any swing thought to hold on to. He found one in a Tuesday session on the practice range—keeping his club face more square at the setup—and it held firm for most of the tournament, at least until a snap hook off the 72nd tee left Glover in a spot only Ballesteros would relish. Glover took a drop after his ball came to rest next to a fan, and while he hovered his six-iron above the ball (he told his caddie, Don Cooper, that he would not ground the club as he took his stance), his ball suddenly rolled several feet downhill into a worse lie. His stance, though, was slightly improved, and from 174 yards Glover hit a draw from a fade lie, knocked a 96-foot chip shot seven feet past the hole and made the comebacker. You bet it was a Seve par.
"I can't tell you how pleased I am with the way my short game was coming down the stretch," said Glover, who held off Byrd on the first playoff hole after Byrd had pulled even at 15-under par with a 72nd-hole birdie.
It was Glover's first victory since his Open triumph at Bethpage Black and his first since revelations of struggles in his personal life, which Glover declined to discuss. His new beard notwithstanding, his eyes said what the victory meant to him, the title a fitting coda to an emotional week.
When Ballesteros died last Saturday morning after a long battle with brain cancer, the tournament became a place to celebrate a life and grieve a death. Some players told stories. Some wrote Twitter messages. Many added black ribbons to their attire. Seve's spirit was everywhere. Sir Nick Faldo broke down in the broadcast booth talking about Seve and the Ryder Cup. During the final round there was a one-minute moment of silence at 3:08 p.m, with play stopped and started again at the sound of an air horn.
In the playoff, when Byrd's shot from a fairway bunker settled on a downhill slope inside the hazard stakes, his own Seve moment wasn't to be. He knocked his difficult birdie chip 25 feet past the cup and missed the putt, while Glover two-putted for par and the win.
"He putted like a genius," Cooper said of his man.
The word, especially now, still evokes Seve.