A history of golf's strange swings

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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.