MEMPHIS — Lucas Glover had to catch himself several times on Saturday and refrain from complaining after a four-under 66 at TPC Southland enabled him to retain his lead in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
But such is the state of his game that he couldn’t help himself.
“It was scrappy, would be how I would describe that day. Parts of it you could remove the ‘s.’ I got a lot out of what I had,” said Glover, who two weeks ago was nowhere near a playoff berth and now finds himself with a chance to lock up a berth in the Tour Championship for just the third time in his career if he can close out his second win in as many weeks.
“Three months ago, if I’d have been mad at 66 or if you told me I’d be mad at 66, I’d say you were crazy,” added the 43-year-old South Carolinian, who came into the week 49th in the FedEx Cup standings and could rise to third with a win. “Splitting hairs, but it was a little bit of smoke and mirrors today, just to be honest. But I’m still in a good spot, and I can work on many in a minute and wake up tomorrow in a better frame of mind.”
He’ll wake up Sunday with a one-stroke lead over Taylor Moore at 14-under 196, Glover’s second-lowest 54-hole aggregate score of his career after last week’s 192 at Wyndham. Tommy Fleetwood is two behind and Jordan Spieth and Max Homa trail by three strokes.
“He [Glover] is playing great. Obviously played great last week,” said Rory McIlroy, who is among six players five shots behind Glover. “He’s a new man with that new putter.”
Winner of the Valspar Championship in March for his first PGA Tour title, Moore had a 65 that included a bogey at the 18th to drop him out of a share of the lead. He came into the opening postseason tournament having missed five of his last seven cuts.
Fleetwood shot 66, Homa had 65 and Spieth, the first-round leader, carded 68.
“I was a couple shots back on Sunday at Valspar and won there, and I think anytime you’re within a couple shots going into the back nine on Sunday, you’ve got a legit shot,” said Moore, 30, in his second year on tour. “Definitely in a good position, and just going to go try to do it again.”
Glover, who switched to a long putter in early June at the Memorial Tournament and has played solidly for the last month with four top-six finishes, is the first player since Patrick Cantlay in 2021 to hold the 54-hole lead in back-to-back weeks. He didn’t believe the win in Greensboro would have been possible were it not for the steady buildup of his confidence.
“No, I don’t. If that would have been the first time in a while [in contention], I think that would have been a tall task, considering where I was earlier,” he said.
The 2009 U.S. Open champion has suffered just two bogeys so far on the rain-softened TPC Southwind layout, where the 70-man field once again played preferred lies in fairway areas. Glover leads the field in strokes gained/tee to green while his putting has been less stellar than a week ago. Nevertheless, he finds himself with his fifth career 54-hole lead. Only once before has he converted that into one of his four career titles—and that came last week.
Glover birdied three of his first four holes, but then sputtered much of the rest of the overcast and humid afternoon, blaming his wedge game that had been rather solid in recent weeks. At the opening hole he chunked a wedge from 98 yards, but then pitched in his third shot for an unlikely birdie.
“Yeah, that was a brutal shot,” Glover said sarcastically of his approach. “I had 98 yards in the fairway downwind with a front pin with a backstop. That was brutal. In your guys’ [writers’] world, I misspelled ‘the,’ I think. Tommy [Lamb, his caddie] said walking up, ‘Well, we know we’re going to have a good lie; let’s chip it in.’ And we did, and that’s why I looked at him and pointed.”
All signs point to a shootout for the final round, both at the top and a bit farther down the leaderboard where jockeying for position will be crucial. The top 50 advance to the second playoff event at the BMW Championship and that ensures a berth in each of the eight high-dollar signature events on the 2024 schedule.
“I have to come out guns ablazing because there’s going to be some birdies tomorrow, and everybody is coming after the same thing,” Glover said. “So I’ve got to be ready.”
Getting ready meant a little bit of range work before a mental reset Saturday night.
“After I get over myself, which shouldn’t take long, it’ll actually be a positive because I didn’t have my A stuff today full swing-wise, and I still managed to stay in there, and that was because of my putting early on and just around the greens, which is something I’ve been working on a lot. Once I finish sweating and take a shower, I’ll probably think about the good stuff about it.”
Indeed, there was plenty.