Rubenstein: Truth stranger than fiction
Every so often golf tosses up a perfect game, a story so captivating that, well, the truth really is stranger than fiction. You couldn’t write it, but it happened. So here we go, a look at Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, the 37-year-old PGA Tour player who shot 10-under-par 60 in the final round of the McGladrey Classic Sunday to come from seven shots behind and win the tournament. It was his first PGA Tour win.
Improbable? Sure. Two Gloves, a South Carolinian, uses a baseball grip where his left thumb is on top of his right thumb. He doesn’t interlock, nor does he overlap in the conventional way. Maybe it’s an underlap. I can’t find the right word. Then there are the two black gloves. His dad wore two gloves and his dad introduced him to golf. Gainey wears black, all-weather gloves. The look is industrial, as if he’s working in his yard. Well, he used to work for the A.O. Smith company, wrapping insulation around hot water heaters. The company is one of his sponsors. They’re family, he says.
So Two Gloves comes out Sunday morning in Sea Island, Georgia, seven shots behind co-leaders Davis Love III and Jim Furyk. Love captained the U.S. Ryder Cup team that blew a four and a half-point lead heading into Sunday singles last month and lost to Europe. Furyk was one of his captain’s picks. The 2003 U.S. Open champion has had a rough season. He was one-up over Sergio Garcia with who holes to play in their singles match. But he lost the lost two holes to give up the full point. And oh yes, Love hosts the McGladrey Classic. It’s at his home club. He hosted the pro-am dinner.
It’s all set up for either Love or Furyk to redeem himself, at least on an individual basis. No matter what each player does Sunday, it can’t make up for the Ryder Cup loss. But should either Love or Furyk win, he’ll have papered over some of the wounds from the Ryder Cup and the entire season. Love and Furyk are major champions. They’re probably future World Golf Hall of Famers. Two Gloves has won twice on the Nationwide Tour, but he’s never won on the PGA Tour. He did win Golf Channel’s Big Break one year.
Then there’s the swing that Two Gloves uses. It’s personal, let’s put it that way. It’s Bubbalicious, say. Bubba Watson won this year’s Masters with a homegrown swing that nobody could try to emulate. Well, you could try, but good luck. Two Gloves is up against Love’s classic swing, and Furyk’s own homegrown, loopy move. Hey, golf welcomes different swings, even those way outside the so-called fundamentals. But maybe the so-called fundamentals aren’t the true fundamentals. That’s another story.
Wait, there’s more. Furyk and Love are major winners, and David Toms, the 2001 PGA Championship winner, also gets in the mix on Sunday. He’s won 13 PGA Tour events. Love has won 20 times, including his 1997 PGA Championship major. Furyk’s won 16 times on the PGA Tour, including his U.S. Open. Toms starts the final round at the McGladrey five shots behind Love and Furyk. He’s playing great, and shoots 63 to finish at 15-under-par 265.
Wait, there’s still more. Furyk invited Gainey to play nine holes with him during a practice round at the 2011 PGA Championship. He saw something in Gainey, probably his homemade swing and also his natural ability. Furyk had been told for years he should change his swing to something more classic. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Why would he? Why should he?
Furyk advised Gainey not to change his swing just because he was now on the PGA Tour. He’d won five mini-tour events. He’d won those two tournaments on the Nationwide, now Web.com, Tour. Why change? Golf was golf.
Gainey heard Furyk, who told him, “You got the game to be out here and to win. Just keep your head up and just keep trying and sooner or later it’s going to happen.”
Now it was Sunday in Sea Island. Gainey had hit the ball well the first three rounds, but the hole had closed up for him. Now on Sunday, it opened wide. He made putts. He made an eagle when it mattered, on the par-five 15th hole. He had a 19-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 59. He missed, but he’d shot 31-29 to finish at 16-under 264.
Now he had to wait a couple of hours to see how Love, Furyk, and Toms would finish. He answered text messages. He was nervous, “because you know, when you got Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, and David Tom coming at you, you might want to pay attention.”
He paid attention, and he won by a shot. He won the 106th PGA Tour event he’d played. He did it his way.
“I’m in this position,” Two Gloves said after it was all over and he knew he’d won, “and man, it feels like I’m in a dream. So I’m just waiting for somebody to slap me upside the head or pinch me or something to wake me up.”
Ladies and gentlemen: Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, your latest PGA Tour winner. Beautiful.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein