Glover a real swinger

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

ORLANDO -- Lucas Glover is not yet one of golf's big names but he's becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

In the PGA Tour qualifying tournament in 2004, nobody much noticed when Glover birdied three of the last four holes to earn back his Tour card right on the number, by the skin of his teeth.

Barely 17 months later, Glover went to Augusta earlier this week to play a practice round for his first Masters appearance early next month. For a kid who grew up watching the Masters as a spectator with his dad, it doesn't get better than that.

"It was pretty surreal driving down there on Tuesday, driving through the gate, walking out on the tee," he said. "It didn't feel right just being able to go there and play.

"I was waiting for somebody to tap me on the shoulder and say 'Excuse me. What are you doing here?' "

Given the sterling quality of the field at the Bay Hill Invitational, somebody might have asked Glover that same question last evening, as he sits on the halfway lead at 10-under-par, a stroke ahead of Australians Rod Pampling and Robert Allenby. Dean Wilson is another shot back at eight-under, one stroke ahead of Sergio Garcia.

Tiger Woods, who won this tournament four years running, from 2000-2003, is in a 25th-place tie at three-under par, but still within weekend striking range on one of his favourite courses. Canadian Mike Weir is one stroke better than Woods, at four under, in a group that includes Ernie Els.

After scraping by to get his card at the end of 2004, Glover had a breakthrough season last year, collecting more than $2 million US in paycheques, including first-place money at the FUNAI Classic, here in Orlando. That earned him a berth in the Tour Championship among the top 30 players on Tour.

It also earned him his trip to Augusta.

His meteoric rise isn't lost on the humble native of Greenville, S.C.

"I think about it every day," he said after rattling off his second consecutive round of 67 yesterday.

"I think about Q-School in 2004 every day and just how far I've come and how fortunate I've been."

Weir is striking the golf ball as well as he ever has but his putting has prevented him from going low in the first two days of this tournament. Yesterday he missed only one fairway all day, and on that hole -- the par-four fifth -- he ended up making birdie when he sank a 40-foot chip from greenside rough.

"That's frustrating," Weir said. "When you hit that many fairways and give yourself that many chances, to shoot one under is a bit frustrating.

"If I have a good putting day I finish five, six under easy. The only birdie I've had on a par-five is when I killed a drive and had an eight iron in."

That occurred on the 16th hole when he mashed a 336-yard drive, leaving himself only 157 yards to the pin.

"The good news is that if I keep hitting the ball as well as I am, then good things will start to happen with the putter."

As far as Woods is concerned, he has hit a flat spot after playing very well in two of his three medal play tournaments this year. He has two wins, including two weeks ago at Doral.

In his first two rounds here, though, it just hasn't happened for him.

"I didn't hit the ball very close," he said. "I was putting every hole from 35 or 40 feet. I just need to get my irons a little more precise."

New doors are opening up for the 26-year-old Glover every day. In seven tournaments so far this year, he has had four top 10's and collected more than $825,000. A win this week would vault him among the money leaders and even put him on Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman's radar screen.

"I'm just thinking about winning again," Glover said. "That's what I want first and foremost."

He's also anxious to test himself down the stretch at a tournament against the big boys.

"I want to say that, yes, I can but I don't know because I haven't done it. I've never played with Tiger or Phil or Ernie or any of those guys. I'd love to give it a try."

Come Sunday, it's a good possibility.


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