OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — To the victor goes some spoiling on the PGA Tour. Lucas Glover is again becoming well aware of that.
When you win, you are asked to do a litany of press engagements Sunday night. TV, then radio, then print. The next week, you’re up on the dais again, answering more questions from some of the same askers. The topics don’t really change. Win a big enough tournament and you’ll do a SportsCenter hit like Glover did this week. That takes up time. Then, after your press conference, you may even have extra virtual interviews to tend to, like Glover did Wednesday. The clock ticks away. Precious practice hours are put on the back-burner. Glover’s string of Wednesday Q&As got so long that things quickly got a bit awkward. Our man had to bow out and leave the room in a rush. He needed a bathroom break.
There are 49 other players in this 50-man field who would love to have the kind of problems Glover has this week. The 43-year-old enters the BMW Championship on a by-the-book heater. He won comfortably in North Carolina two weeks ago, then won less comfortably (in a playoff against the No. 4 player in the world) in Memphis last week.
There’s a book Glover has been meaning to get to — “Mad Honey,” by Jennifer Finley Boylan and Jodi Picoult — but he hasn’t cracked it yet. He’s been too busy working through what can only be described as a career inflection point. He’s the first man from the 40-and-older crowd to win consecutive Tour events since Vijay Singh in 2008. And he’s now the topic of a popular question whispered around the grounds at Olympia Fields Country Club:
Would you take him?
As in, if you were U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson, would you choose Glover with one of your six captain’s picks?
If you’re not sold at the moment, that’s okay. Glover has a tee time this week, something he wouldn’t have believed a month ago, and only 49 golfers to beat. He’ll be in the field next week, too, with only 29 others remaining down in Atlanta. This time of year, the tournaments get easier to win with each passing week, at least on paper. And should Glover once again contend, Johnson may have no choice but to gift him a spot on his team. Qualifying regulations have been put in place for this very scenario: the hottest golfer on the planet tossing his hat into the ring with an 11th-hour push.
“I’ve never made it and I want to,” Glover said Sunday night after that victory in Memphis. Eight words is all it takes to explain how he feels about the opportunity.
Glover added Wednesday: “To be on a team representing your country, I think it’s the highest honor we can have.”
Were Glover’s name listed as “Justin Thomas”, or his age listed as a decade younger, or even his victories spread out throughout the season, things would be different. But because he’s 43 and a former putting yipper, and because he’s won half as many tournaments as the prodigies with whom he’s competing, it’s all coming to a head at once, in a weird spurt of relevance.
“I don’t envy [Zach’s] position,” Nick Taylor said between swings on the driving range, speaking for much of the golf world that is watching along. Nobody really envies the job of Ryder Cup captains, except perhaps those whose careers have been good enough to warrant becoming a captain themselves. It’s a thankless role in a team loss and an overstated role in a team win. But while we focus on captains’ decisions during a team event, some of their biggest quandaries come in the month preceding the Cup. Who are they talking to? What kind of analytics do they trust? Did Fred Couples have good information when he essentially booked Cameron Young’s ticket on a radio hit three weeks ago? Too much press time can get you in trouble!
Who is chosen during these tense few weeks is often just as important as who isn’t. Ryder Cup berths are tokens that sparkle on Hall of Fame resumes. Friends have to choose among friends in doling out those tokens. And suddenly Glover looks like the most deserving. Acquaintances are pushed aside. Players campaign for themselves both directly — like Webb Simpson’s late-night 2014 texts to captain Tom Watson — and also indirectly, like what Keegan Bradley did with a microphone in front of him Tuesday.
The most direct any player can be, though, is exactly what Glover has been lately: mostly silent, winning and winning and winning — then using that press time to deliver some clear thoughts:
I. Want. In.
If Glover wins Sunday, it’s a done deal. He may even qualify automatically. The debate hinges on a much more realistic question: How far down the leaderboard can he finish and still be on the fore of Johnson’s mind?