ARDMORE, Pa. – Miller Barber, known for his colorful “Mr. X” nickname and distinctive looping swing, died Tuesday at age 82.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday that golf lost a great man and competitor.
“We are saddened by the passing of Miller Barber,” Finchem said in a statement released on Wednesday on PGATour.com. “He was a wonderful player who made his mark on the PGA Tour with 11 victories and then really excelled on the Champions Tour, becoming one of its best players in the tour's formative years. Miller and the Champions Tour's other early stars helped establish the tour and make it the tremendous success it has become.”
Barber won 24 Champions Tour events. He made a record 1,297 starts on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
His Mr. X nickname came from one of two sources, Barber once explained to Golf Digest magazine. He wasn’t sure which made the nickname stick. Barber said George Bayer was considered the longest hitter of that time and went by the nickname “Mr. X.” Barber said when Bayer couldn’t keep a shot in play and Miller beat him in a long-drive contest, the nickname transferred to Miller.
“The other,” Barber told the magazine, “is that Jim Ferree gave me the nickname because I never told anyone where I was going at night. I was a bachelor and a mystery man with many girlfriends in many cities — I didn't marry Karen until I was 39. It wasn't their business to know where I was going, so for a while they called me `007’ — the James Bond movies were popular at the time. But my activities prompted Ferree to start referring to me as `The Mysterious Mr. X,’ and it really stuck.”
Barber excelled with one of the game’s most unorthodox swings. Fellow tour pro Jackie Burke Jr. once said Barber’s swing made him look like “an octopus falling out of a tree.”
Barber said his swing was ingrained as a youth.
'That's just the way I learned to play,' Barber once told the Palm Beach Post. 'It just came out naturally for me to swing the way I swing. I tried to change to the conventional way, and I couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.”