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Lucas Glover
Lucas Glover has carded 10 birdies in his first two trips around Hazeltine. (Franklin/Getty Images)

Enjoyment, not obsession, has Glover contending yet again

Lucas Glover has finally learned to relax on the golf course, and his new attitude is paying off big-time. The new U.S. Open champ is heating up at Hazeltine by cooling out and not taking things so seriously.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

CHASKA, Minn. -- He's not doing any deep breathing exercises. No yoga, either.

But Lucas Glover has finally gotten it through his thick skull -- his words, not ours -- that golf is just a game and he should enjoy it, not obsess over it.

Glover's finally learned to relax on the golf course like he does when he's back home in Greenville, S.C., when he's playing a round with his buddies at The Thornblade Club. He finally understands what his sports psychologist, Morris Pickens, means when he says that golf is not that big a deal.

Exactly when he had this epiphany, Glover can't tell you. But his results this season have been impressive -- highlighted by that U.S. Open victory at Bethpage Black two months ago. Glover also tied for second at the Quail Hollow Championship and third at the Buick Invitational, both played on major-caliber courses.

And at the midway point of the 91st PGA Championship, Glover is contending again. He's 3 under after a 70 on Friday and has a realistic chance to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win the U.S. Open and PGA in the same year.

Now that would really be fun, wouldn't it? Indeed.

"It's just something (Pickens) and I have worked on and maybe finally took hold," Glover said. "Nothing in particular (like) you've got to do this before you play to be relaxed. ... Maybe just not taking things so seriously, a bad shot or a lipout or anything like that. ... 

"I do know that just trying to play like it is Tuesday (during a practice round) or play like I'm home or playing with my buddies, because I do play better that way, (has helped). It's been a conscious effort just to, hey, relax, it's really not that big a deal. Let's just go play golf. I'm just trying to feel like I did early in the week, playing and goofing off."

Glover's more relaxed approach could pay off with a berth on the U.S. Presidents Cup Team, too. He already knows what can happen when you put too much pressure on yourself. In 2006, Glover came to the PGA needing a good finish to make the Ryder Cup. He opened with a 66 but then tightened up and shot 74-77-72 to fall out of the picture.

Don't expect a repeat performance.

"I knew I needed a good week here," Glover said. "You can't have a chance to win if you're not there Sunday. So I was real pleased with the way I played. I know when you bogey the last it looks a little more sour -- it counts the same as bogeying the first but mentally it's different. I can't be too upset with 3 under around here, though."

After all, Hazeltine isn't exactly a place to let your guard down. Glover has been resilient, though, when he's made bogeys and opportunistic when his approach shots had him thinking birdie. He's made 10 of them, which is pretty strong on a course that's averaging nearly three strokes over par.

"I felt like I left a few out there," Glover said. "But I played well.  Just defense wasn't as good as my offense.  So I'll have to tone it down a little bit tomorrow. But 10 birdies in two rounds I'll take.  I have to pick my spots better and play safer on some of the holes."

During the first two rounds at Hazeltine, Glover was in a marquee pairing with Masters champ Angel Cabrera and his good friend, Stewart Cink, who won the 138th Open Championship at Turnberry four weeks ago. The three have played a fair amount together, so it was easy for Glover to maintain his new attitude.

"We had fun and goofed off a little bit, and it was a good time," Glover said. So much that when the three finished up on the ninth hole Friday afternoon, Cink had jokingly suggested a commemorative photo of the "ceremonial" pairing.

"He had made bogey, so he met me with an expletive," Cink said, laughing. "... There's a lot of confidence in the group and the crowd is very supportive.  It was really fun."

At Firestone Country Club last week Cink and Glover had talked about the whirlwind turn their respective lives had taken over the last two months. What they discovered, though, was that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

"It was pretty evident right away that neither of us is any different," Glover said. "We still goof off and make fun of each other and pick at each other. So you know, there's no point in doing anything different."

Indeed. Even though he got the nickname "G-Lover" after he read the Top 10 List on the David Letterman Show, Glover is the same unfailingly polite, easy-going Southerner with the deep drawl he was before the U.S. Open. In fact, he played the four weeks after he won at Bethpage because he wanted to honor the commitments he had made.

"I think it's very admirable. A lot of guys would have said:  Hold on now, I need to reel it back in a little bit but not Lucas Glover," Cink said. "... That's a sure sign that there's a lot of character under that outfit that he's got on."

And a lot of moxie. Glover didn't back down at Bethpage, and he's eager to be in the hunt again come Sunday. He's played some of his best golf this year on three of the TOUR's most challenging layouts. Why should Hazeltine be any different?

Not to mention, Glover now knows he can do it.

"You know, pretty high pressure that week and I performed, and that was very comforting," he said. "Just gives you a little bit of a confidence boost that I performed under the gun, and that's a good feeling."

And make no mistake, like Frank Sinatra, one of Glover's favorites, would say, Glover won the U.S. Open his way. Don't expect him to embark on any swing changes any time soon.

"Somebody said, you won it playing like you, why change?" he said. "And that's true.  I won it playing the way I play.  You don't have to change anything to do it again."

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