Glover locks in down stretch to prevail

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Lucas Glover steadied his hands for a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole, an anticlimactic finish to five dreary days at a U.S. Open filled with more delays than drama.

The unlikely champion turned to soak up a beautiful sight beneath gathering clouds Monday at Bethpage Black.

"I just looked at the scoreboard to make sure this was really happening," Glover said.

Some 24,000 fans, speckled with mud from a long walk soiled, could surely relate.

Glover never lost the lead over the final 12 holes, even though the attention was always on someone else. He closed with a 3-over 73 for a 2-shot victory in a U.S. Open that might be remembered more for the week than the winner.

The stage belonged to Phil Mickelson, as it usually does in New York.

Lefty charged into a share of the lead with a startling bid to finally win the Open, his final event before a summer of uncertainty as his wife battles breast cancer. A fairy-tale finish turned all too familiar, however, when Mickelson missed two par putts over the last four holes and wound up setting the wrong kind of record by finishing second for the fifth time in the American national championship.

"Certainly I'm disappointed," Mickelson said. "But now that it's over, I've got more important things going on.

"And," he added, pausing, "oh, well."

Next came David Duval, out of nowhere. Winless in eight years, he ran off three straight birdies on the back nine to tie for the lead as the No. 882 player in the world tried to show why he was No. 1 a decade ago.

His hopes ended with a 5-foot par putt on the 17th that spun 180 degrees out of the cup, and his silver medal was no consolation.

"I stand before you certainly happy with how I played, but extremely disappointed in the outcome," Duval said. "I had no question in my mind I was going to win the golf tournament today."

Ricky Barnes was the long shot who didn't last very long with the 54-hole lead. He shot 40 on the front nine to turn control over to Glover, and wound up shooting a 76 to join Mickelson and Duval in a tie for second.

Glover didn't have a compelling storyline, just the kind of golf that wins a U.S. Open in any conditions.

He made only one birdie in the rain-delayed final round, and it could not have been timed any better. Tied for the lead with three holes to play, he split the middle of the fairway and had 173 yards left to the hole at No. 16.

It was a smooth 8-iron, like thousands he has hit on the driving range. It landed 6 feet from the cup.

"The putt was all you could ever ask for under pressure," Glover said.

His caddie, Don Cooper, helped him with the read and told him, "There's no way we're missing this."

"It would have went in a thimble," Cooper said.

Glover arrived at the 17th tee in time to see that Duval had made bogey and that Mickelson earlier had dropped a shot there, too. Suddenly, he was 2 shots ahead, and he made sure the U.S. Open didn't have a surprise ending.

The 18th tee was moved forward to play 364 yards, and the record will reflect that Glover hit a 6-iron off the tee and a 9-iron to the green on the final hole of his U.S. Open victory.

No matter. His name is on the trophy, right under Tiger Woods, in the same company as so many greats.

"I hope I don't downgrade it or anything with my name on there," Glover quipped. "It's an honor, and I'm just excited and happy as I can be to be on here."

Glover finished at 4-under 276 and earned $1.35 million, moving from No. 71 to 18th in the world.

The 29-year-old from South Carolina, who chews tobacco and listens to Sinatra, had not won since holing out a bunker shot on the final hole at Disney nearly four years ago.

But this was no fluke.

"I hit the shots today that I had to hit in the situation, and that was a little more gratifying," Glover said.

It was the first time the U.S. Open ended on a Monday without a playoff since 1983, courtesy of relentless rain.

And for the first time in five years, all the major trophies belong to someone other than Woods.

The defending champion reached under par for the first time all week with a 6-foot birdie putt at the par-3 14th, leaving him 4 shots out of the lead but running out of holes. Not that it mattered. He hit a 5-iron over the 15th green to make bogey, and had to settle for a 69 that left him in a tie for sixth, 4 shots out of the lead.

"I striped it this week," Woods said. "I hit it just like I did at Memorial, and unfortunately I didn't make anything."

Glover closed with the highest score of a U.S. Open champion since Ernie Els had a 73 at Oakmont in 1994, although the only score that mattered was his even-par 35 on the back nine -- and that crucial birdie.

Mickelson wasn't so fortunate with the putter, typical of his fortunes in a major he can't seem to win.

Starting the final round 6 shots back, he shot into a share of the lead with a 35-foot birdie putt on the tough 12th hole, then hit his approach to 4 feet on the par-5 13th for an eagle. He walked to every green giving the fans a thumbs-up, feeling the love from the crowd, believing this might be his year.

But after he pulled off another unlikely shot -- a hybrid from the rough on No. 15, up the hill to the back of the green -- it all fell apart. From the fringe, Mickelson's putt stopped about 3 feet above the hole. To the horror of thousands of fans surrounding the green, the par putt didn't touch the cup.

"I just thought that it was going to stop breaking, and it broke a little more," Mickelson said.

He came up short on the 17th, chipped 8 feet short and didn't hit that par putt with enough speed. His last hope was to make birdie on the 18th, but his 30-foot effort slid by the hole.

Mickelson lingered at Bethpage an hour after he finished to sign autographs, then headed home to an uncertain future. He has said he probably won't go to the British Open and isn't sure when he will return to golf.

"Maybe it's more in perspective for me because ... I feel different this time," he said. "I don't know where to go with this, because I want to win this tournament badly."