He all but clinched his return winning the Chiquita Classic last week, his second Nationwide Tour victory this season. The question is whether he’ll earn the promotion this year or next.
With his last victory, Gainey vaulted to No. 1 on the Nationwide Tour money list. He’s virtually assured he’ll finish among the top 25 in money at year’s end, which means he’ll win a PGA Tour card for next season. But with a third victory this year, Gainey can earn a promotion this season.
Are you content knowing you’ve pretty much locked up a return to the PGA Tour next year, or are you driven to get that third title and move up this year?
Yes and no. Yes, it’s on my mind, but I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to do the same things I’ve been doing all year. I’m trying to win every week I tee it up.
You’ve said you are motivated trying to prove “the doubters” wrong. In what way do you feel people doubt you?
I haven’t had anybody say they doubt my ability, but if you really think about the Big Break show, and some of these guys and girls who haven’t panned out, people look at some of us and say, `Oh, they’re just trying to get these different characters to fill out the show.’ You sense people thinking these guys have a little bit of game, but they don’t have what it takes to make it on the PGA Tour or LPGA.
But the Big Break has gotten some really good players on the show with myself, Matt Every, Kristy McPherson. You look at us three, I feel pretty good where we are now.
After your first Nationwide Tour victory six weeks ago, you said you wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
When I won my first time, I was sure people were thinking that’s a fluke. I want everyone to know I’m a good player. There are doubters everywhere in the world. Everyone has doubters, even Tiger Woods.
When you made it to the PGA Tour in 2008 through Q-School, you basically jumped right from mini-tours to the highest level in your sport. You lost your exempt status and played with limited status last year. What have you learned that will help in your return to the PGA Tour?
I learned being out here on the Nationwide Tour. I did feel like I was going straight from the mini-tours to the big show, but I felt like I was ready. Now winning twice on the Nationwide Tour, I think it gives me some credit as far as belonging out there. But it doesn’t matter what I say, I have to perform.
Two wins this summer, what’s come together for you?
The short game. It’s unbelievable what a difference a couple years can make. In ’08 and ’09 playing the PGA Tour, I played some of the worst golf I’ve ever played. My short game’s improved.
That’s how you win golf tournaments. Everybody is a great ball striker out here. It’s about who can get it in the hole. Whoever gets that wedge closest to the hole to where you just have to tap it in, that makes it so much easier.
How did your short game get so much better?
My caddie, Marvin King, he started talking to me about really working on the short game, the short shots.
Anything in particular he helped you with?
We have great chemistry. He knows my game as good as I know it. When you have a caddie who can see you doing something wrong and help correct it, that’s a big help.
He pointed out something he saw in my short game. He saw me moving my body on short shots and hitting them fat. He told me to keep the upper body still on the short shots, to keep the buttons on my shirt still, or centered.
Anything new in your life you care to share?
I’m getting married Dec. 18. I’m looking forward to it. I have a great girl, Erin Joiner. I feel real lucky to have found such a great person to call my life partner.
She’s ready for a crazy life in golf?
Yes. I have a 2-year-old son (Tommy Gainey III) who lives with my ex girlfriend, but I live nearby. It takes a really special person to jump in and be with me and understand I have a 2-year-old son who comes first in my life. It’s not easy to jump into a relationship with a man or woman with a child. She’s a great person. I love her to death and look forward to spending the rest of my life with her.