A history of golf's strange swings

By Randall MellOctober 22, 2012, 6:55 pm

Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey reminded us with his victory Sunday at the McGladrey Classic how heart, guts and determination can trump textbook mechanics.

Gainey is a throwback.

In bygone eras, before teaching became so scientific, before video recordings standardized fundamentals, golf swings were more colorful and personal signatures than they are today. That’s not to say, like Gainey, the rebels with homemade swings aren’t still out there. It’s just that there aren’t nearly as many of them.

Here’s a look at the top 10 unorthodox swings in tour golf history (Click for GolfChannel.com debate on today's most unorthodox swing):

1) Moe Norman

Gone for eight years now, congestive heart failure taking him from this world, Norman’s legend lives on.

A two-time Canadian amateur champ and two-time Canadian PGA champ, Norman’s eccentric and shy ways doomed him in an abbreviated try on the PGA Tour. Still, Norman became famous as one of the game’s most unconventional artists.

Known as “Pipeline Moe,” Norman stood over the ball like a man with bolt cutters lining up to snip a chain. With straight, rigid arms and minimal hand and knee action, Norman could repeat his swing as well as any player who ever lived. His finish made him look like he was trying to stab a cloud, but he was famous for how straight he could hit the ball. Tiger Woods once said that only two players ever really “owned” their swings: Ben Hogan and Moe Norman.

“I am in a different world,” Norman once said. “I am in the world of the unknown.”

2) Eamonn Darcy

It’s easier to believe in leprechauns than to believe Darcy won four European Tour events with his swing.

Darcy, an Irishman, won on the tour in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s with a swing that seemed to defy physics.

Darcy’s right elbow went beyond flying. It nearly went out of orbit on the backswing with his left arm folding like a chicken wing in the follow through. From chaos, he could produce some beautiful shots, good enough in ’87 to help him beat Ben Crenshaw in singles with the Europeans winning the Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village.

3) Miller Barber

Barber won 11 PGA Tour events as a contemporary of Arnold Palmer with a backswing that never came close to reaching parallel. At the top, Barber’s club was nearly bolt upright, like a lightning rod. Somebody once famously described his swing as looking like a man trying to open an umbrella in the wind. “After I loop the club to the inside on the downswing, I look like any other good player,” Barber once said. “The downswing is all that matters.”

4) Hubert Green

Green won 19 PGA Tour titles in the ‘70s and ‘80s, two of them major championships, with a swing that he didn’t even like. Well, Green joked he didn’t like it. “I looked at it once on film and almost puked,” he famously cracked. Green’s swing was compact and quick with a lot of wrist cock. The great Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray once said: “His swing looks like a drunk trying to find a key hole in the dark.”

5) Arnold Palmer

As signatures go, Palmer’s swing is a classic. If you only saw it in silhouette, you would instantly know whose swing it was. Really, though, Palmer didn’t swing the club. He hit the ball. He smashed the ball with a blacksmith’s lash and that crouching corkscrew finish. The swing helped him win 62 PGA Tour titles and seven majors.

6) Bob Murphy

If you were at an event watching Murphy begin his back swing, you could probably have bolted to buy a hot dog at a nearby concession stand and returned in time to see him finish his swing. With a slow takeaway, and a pause at the top of his swing, Murphy’s rhythm is what made his swing so unusual and distinctive. He won five PGA Tour events in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

7) Raymond Floyd

He’s inside the line and laid off while taking the club back, nowhere close to being “on plane,” and then his hands redirect skyward toward the top of his swing before he drops the club back inside into more classic position on the way to the ball. Floyd’s homemade swing won him 22 PGA Tour titles, including four majors.

8) Jim Thorpe

It’s more a wicked lash than a golf swing that Thorpe used to win three PGA Tour events in the ‘80s and later to win 13 times on the Champions Tour. Nobody comes into the hitting zone more violently than Thorpe, whose corkscrew finish looks like it could snap a normal man’s vertebrae. Thorpe likes to say NBC’s Johnny Miller told him his swing has “more moves than Kung Fu.”

9) Jim Furyk

David Feherty is credited with saying Furyk looks like an “octopus falling out of a tree” when he swings, but Furyk’s homemade swing has won him 16 PGA Tour titles, including the 2003 U.S. Open. With a double overlapping grip, with a looping takeaway to the outside and a looping drop back to the inside on the downswing, Furyk’s action is the most distinctive of his generation of players.

10) Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey

A man trying to kill a cockroach with a crowbar may be closer to standard golf fundamentals than Gainey, but the beauty of Gainey’s swing is that it works so well he now calls himself a PGA Tour winner. He won The McGladrey Classic with it. Gainey’s unorthodox swing starts with his unconventional address. He has an extremely strong grip, with his right hand almost palm up. He’s crouched so much lower over the ball than most players. His swing includes some lifting, then a dip, and a lot of hanging back on the follow through. He shot 60 with it Sunday at Sea Island.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.