Glover surges to one-stroke lead
• Photo gallery: SBS Championship - Round 1
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
KAPALUA, Maui — With a birdie on the last hole and a spectacular mid-round surge, U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover grabbed the first-round lead yesterday at the SBS Championship.
The PGA Tour's season-opening event is being played on Kapalua's Plantation Course, which yielded 23 sub-par rounds as light tradewinds returned. There are only 28 players — the smallest field since the first year (1999) this event was played on Maui. They played the par-73 Plantation in an average of 69.857 yesterday, nearly a shot less than last year.
A dozen golfers are within three of Glover's 7-under-par 66 going into today's second round, including two more of last year's major champions (Stewart Cink and Angel Cabrera).
Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy shares 11th after shooting 69.
Glover's opening round of 2010 was a huge improvement over his opening hole. Aiming 25 feet left of the pin at No. 1, he hit his approach shot 25 feet right, into a hazard, and took double-bogey.
That was forgotten when he eagled both par-5s on the front nine. Glover, ranked 20th in the world, had two eagles all last year. He almost beat that on the 18th, hitting a wedge from 70 yards to nine inches.
He also birdied No. 6, along with the first four holes on the back, "making a mile of putts." He was 9-under in a nine-hole span and lamented missed birdie putts from inside nine feet on the next two holes, and a five-footer for par that led to his only bogey, at No. 16.
He was not lamenting too loudly.
"I hit some loose shots, got penalized for them. I didn't finish the round, 14, 15 and 16 there," Glover said. "But I made a lot of middle-length putts and hit a lot of good wedge shots. I don't think I missed a fairway."
He missed just one — one more than Matt Kuchar — and ranked first in distance of the putts he made with nearly 145 feet. Glover drained seven putts from outside seven feet.
Kuchar also jump-started his 2010 with eagle at the fifth, following with birdies the next two holes. He shot a bogey-free 67 to share second with Scot Martin Laird, Australian Nathan Green and fellow Americans Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson.
Watney and Johnson finished among the top six in driving distance last year. Their 305-yard-plus averages are an ideal fit for the Planation's forgivingly wide fairways. Not coincidentally, Laird (14th) and Glover (25th) are also among the tour's driving terrors.
Green, at 5-feet-8, 175 pounds, and Kuchar are not, averaging in the low 280s. Green allowed that the Plantation is "probably a slightly tougher course for a shorter hitter," but still praised its fairness for players who can finesse a wedge shot.
His only hiccup came on the par-3 eighth, and it was frightening. His tee shot landed in the left hazard and his only shot was to the left edge of the green. His shot rocketed out "hard and low," 20 feet left of his target, and directly at two of the 10 spectators.
"As soon as it came out, I actually said 'sorry' while the ball is still on the club face. I felt it shutting down," recalled Green, who was 12th at last year's Sony Open in Hawai'i. "It was going straight for her head, the two girls sitting there. They must have just ducked the last second, and I just caught her on the top of the arm. It wasn't good at all."
But, when the spectator was not seriously hurt and Green got up and down for his only bogey — on one of his 11 one-putts — the ricochet became a good break.
"I'd have probably still been out there otherwise," Green said, able to joke 3 hours after the scare.
Matt Kuchar, who swapped his racquet for golf clubs after playing 12-unders in Florida, has returned to tennis with some success since marrying wife Sybi. The two met at Georgia Tech, where she played on the tennis team and he was a two-time All-American in golf. Last year, they won the mixed doubles consolation title (fifth place) at the USTA Clay Court Nationals. Kuchar also won a prestigious silver ball when he and his brother-in-law took second in doubles at the USTA Grass Courts.
Kenny Perry and his amateur team of Tracy Miller, Daren Nelson, Steve Olsen and Lynette Holmes won Wednesday's Pro-Am with a score of 53. Stewart Cink's team, with June Jones, Allan Ikawa, Warren Haruki and Kent Lucien, took fifth at 55.
Perry, who turns 50 this year, was 5-under before taking double-bogey at the 17th.
Wednesday's pro-am results