The slump has lasted so long, the valleys have been so dark. A PGA search warrant was imminent.

Where have you gone, Lucas Glover?

Remember the likable, clean-shaven former Clemson golfer who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in New York?

And the bearded "Mountain Man" claiming the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte?

Well, so much for apparent aberrations.

Glover's World Golf ranking coming into this week's Masters was No. 322.

In 53 PGA tour events over the last three years, Glover has made only 20 cuts.

He hasn't been in the top 100 of the FedEx Cup standings since 2011.

No wonder the typically reserved Glover celebrated a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Augusta National with a fist pump. A second-round 69 on Friday was his best score in seven Masters appearances, and he made the cut at even par for the tournament.

"I'm not much of a Friday fist-pumper," Glover said, "but I don't think I've ever shot in the 60s here. That just meant a lot to me. That had nothing to do with showing anybody up; that was for me."

Check out Lucas Glover on television. At 34, he's in great shape. No more beard.

He seems a lot like the U.S. Open winner when he's making back-to-back birdies, as he did Friday on Nos. 7 and 8 and again on Nos. 17 and 18.

"It's always good to birdie the last two no matter where you are, especially around here," Glover said. "I couldn't be happier with the way I finished."

Comeback trail?

A 73 on Thursday was encouraging, too, considering the relatively brisk wind and high scores.

"I did a lot of good things (Thursday) and I did the same things good (Friday)," Glover said. "I just kind of cleaned up the obvious stuff. No big numbers."

This might be the beginning of The Comeback after a stretch of challenging changes since Bethpage Black.

Glover went though a divorce.

He injured his left knee in an ocean paddleboard accident.

The beard was added, attracting wisecracks. CBS analyst David Feherty said it looked like something from "Deadliest Catch." Glover joked that he needed something to clean his clubs with.

The beard came off.

Glover remarried.

He's been more talkative this week than at recent Masters.

Masters motivation

"There's a lot of conservative and then aggressive, conservative, aggressive," the Greenville native said of the alternating approaches to holes at Augusta. "So you can't really think about a number, because you don't know where the holes are going to be. I think that's really the case around here."

Glover has made the Masters cut four times in seven tries, including last year. His best Masters finish was 20th in 2007.

There is an opportunity this weekend, but time is running out. This is the final April of Glover's five-year Augusta exemption earned for winning the 2009 U.S. Open.

Glover was asked if he's gone nostalgic this week among the dogwoods and azaleas, contemplating the exemption.

Answer: Not at all.

"If I do what I'm supposed to do," he said, "and work like I'm supposed to work and play like I'm supposed to play, I'll be here. And, if not, that's my motivation."

Welcome back, Lucas Glover.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff