Lucas Glover entered the 2009 golf season with a fair amount of doubt but a healthy dose of optimism.
He was coming off a campaign when he finished 105th on the money list -- so disappointing because it was more than 50 spots lower than his worst finish since his rookie year four years earlier. Toward the end of the year, he just quit playing altogether, hardly touching a golf club for close to two full months.
Still, the 29-year-old from Greenville, S.C., knew he belonged with the big boys among the elite in professional golf. He proved it in June when his second PGA Tour victory came at a major championship, as Glover triumphed at waterlogged Bethpage Black to claim the U.S. Open title.
Based on that performance, the guy who jokingly referred to himself as "G-Lover" during a post-Open Top 10 list on David Letterman's late-night program punched his ticket to Bermuda for this week's PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Also in the field this week are Masters winner Angel Cabrera, British Open champ Stewart Cink and PGA Championship titleholder Y.E. Yang. Glover sat down on the Hot Seat to discuss this tournament, the recent Presidents Cup and, of course, his U.S. Open win.
Q: When we spoke 10 days after your U.S. Open victory, you told me your life had changed in that it was now "busier" and "different." Have the obligations of being a major champion slowed in recent months?
A: Yeah, a little bit. After those next four, five, six weeks, it was press room after every round or every Tuesday or Wednesday, stuff like that. After Stewart won the [British] Open, he became the pincushion for a little while, but it was a good problem to have.
Q: How about the idea of being a U.S. Open winner? Have you gotten used to hearing
that on the first tee?
A: Well, it was tough, because the first time I heard it, I got a pie smashed in my face [by Johnson Wagner before a pro-am round at the Travelers Championship, two days after winning the Open]. No, you don't get tired of hearing that, that's for sure.
Q: It was such a strange week at Bethpage, with all of the weather delays and a Monday finish. Do you feel like you got cheated a bit by winning such an unconventional tournament?
A: I don't think so. We had a playoff last year at Torrey Pines for the Open. It was just a weird week. It turned into a grind, but everybody was going through it, so it wasn't really that big of a deal.
Q: Is there one moment -- anything from a specific shot to a piece of advice -- you will most remember from that week?
A: You know, the 8-iron on 16 and the 4-iron on 17 were as clutch shots as I've ever hit.
Q: Do you still find yourself reminiscing about those shots?
A: Yeah, I think it's something we all do. You hit a great shot under pressure that means something, and you kind of put it in a vault. It's something you think about for later. Somebody like Tiger [Woods], who's won 70-something tournaments, well, he's got a lot of those. He can draw on a lot of great experiences and a lot of great shots. I think it would be foolish not to think about those in certain situations and save them up for a later day.
Q: Most golf fans will look back on 2009 as a year of near misses for great stories at the majors. Can you remove yourself from being a top-level pro and think about what it would have been like, as a fan of the game yourself, to see Kenny Perry as the oldest Masters champion or Tom Watson as the oldest major winner ever?
A: Well, yeah. Obviously, a lot of people were pulling for those guys, and I think each of the four of us here this week can honestly say we weren't the favorite or the people's choice or whatever. But at the same time, that's why 156 guys start each tournament. All four of us got it done when it mattered. That's what we have to draw upon, and that's what is important to us.
Q: At the Open, there's no doubt the masses were rooting for either Phil Mickelson -- whose wife, Amy, was undergoing breast cancer treatments at the time -- or David Duval, who has dramatically fallen from No. 1 in the world a decade ago. Did their presence on the leaderboard have any impact on you during those last two rounds? Did they help alleviate some of the pressure?
A: You know, I kept telling myself that very thing. There's only a couple of people out here on this golf course right now who think that I can do it, and that was me and my caddie and my family and my friends. But at the same time, I understand that I was not the favorite, and that's the way it should be. Tiger and Phil were making a run -- they're Nos. 1 and 2 in the world -- Duval's a former No. 1 in the world, and I qualified a week before. I knew it and that's the way it should have been. Those guys have been the best players in the world for 15 years. I just happened to be the last man standing.
Q: I know you're pretty good friends with Stewart. Have you gotten a chance to speak with him -- or Angel or Y.E.-- about a season in which four unheralded players claimed the majors?
A: We haven't really talked about it. Stewart and I joked about it a little bit when we saw each other after the British Open, that we hoped they'd let us come to Bermuda. But, you know, I think we've had other years like this.
Rob Tringali/Getty Images
One of the many perks Lucas Glover earned by winning the U.S. Open at a soggy Bethpage Black in June was an October trip to Bermuda to play in the Grand Slam of Golf.
Q: None of you was ranked higher than 33rd when you won. What does that say about the current depths of field in comparison with past generations?
A: I think it's a tribute to how many good players there are. There are 156 guys in the field at every PGA Tour event, and honestly, there are 156 guys who can win. I mean, it's that good.
Q: OK, loaded question: In a Ryder or Presidents Cup competition, would you rather go winless in a team victory or undefeated in a team loss?
A: I'd rather have the team win every time.
Q: And that's what happened two weeks ago.
A: Yeah, I didn't play well, but the team picked me up. A couple of years ago, I played a little better, and some other guys didn't play well. As long as we win the Cup, I'm fine with that.
Q: You were 0-3-1 at Harding Park. That one half came in singles against Vijay Singh, but he didn't realize he was giving you a tie, isn't that right?
A: I misinterpreted what he said after we played. Stewart actually pointed it out. He said, "I didn't know how you stood." Well, I thought he meant in the match, but he meant for the week, so he was picking on me a little bit. But I didn't play well and the team did, so that's all I care about.
Q: Early in that week you played a practice round with Sean O'Hair, Hunter Mahan and de facto assistant captain Michael Jordan. Well, we all know that MJ got into O'Hair's pocket, and Hunter said he had to settle up, too. But how did you fare? Did you take a couple of bucks off him?
A: No, he was on my team [laughs].
Q: So who helped the team more -- you or him?
A: In that practice round? We brother-in-law'd pretty good. Hunter and Sean realized they might have given him a few too many shots.
Q: Last year at this time, you were taking a self-imposed break from the game. Now that you can chase Silly Season money, though, you're keeping a light schedule. What did you learn about yourself from that break, and how has it affected your thought process this time around?
A: Jason, it was one of those things where if I came out this year and had a great year, it was the smartest move I'd ever made. And if I came out and laid an egg, it was the dumbest move I'd ever made. I just needed a break. Looking back on it, I realized that I might not need to play as much. You know, I'm not 24 or 25 anymore. It's a grind. I'll get to play in the Players and a lot of the WGCs [World Golf Championships] now. You've got to be rested and ready to go. So I might keep it a bit lighter, but I'll still play a good bit; I'm not going to lower it to 20 or anything, but I'll be able to pick and choose a little bit better.
Q: One tourney you didn't skip is the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. You're currently in Bermuda -- what's the atmosphere like there?
A: It's great. I have a hard time estimating crowds, but we must have had 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people out there walking with us every shot. We've got them in the fairway like the U.S. Amateur. It's pretty cool.
Previous Hot Seat GuestsWho else has appeared on ESPN.com's Hot Seat to discuss golf? Everyone from Tiger Woods to Annika Sorenstam.
Click here for the full list.
Q: How strange is it to play in a tournament that consists of only three other players?
A: It's definitely different, because you're not ever waiting and you can watch everybody you're competing against in your group, which is pretty cool, because you know how you stand the entire time.
Q: Last question. Just to bring this whole thing full circle, nearly four months after I asked you the last time, I want to know once more: How has your life changed since winning the U.S. Open?
A: I'll probably give you the same answer; I'm just a little bit busier than I used to be. The phone rings more, and I think it's like with anybody who has some success. People want a little bit more of your time. I'm just having to learn the process of managing that time better and unfortunately having to say no to some things. You appreciate the issues, but you have to learn how to deal with them.
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.