Monday, December 30

Arnold Palmer Salutes the Late Miller Barber

TOUR VETERAN MILLER BARBER DIED on June 11, one of a handful of players and golf people Arnold Palmer remembered in his annual state-of-the-game message that published at on Sunday.

Here's what Palmer said about the native of Shreveport, Louisiana:
If all you knew about Miller Barber was his golf swing, you'd say he had no shot. He had the ultimate chicken-wing right arm and held the club virtually perpendicular to the ground at the top of his backswing. But what people overlooked with Miller—as they do with most good players with unorthodox swings—was that he had a great release through the ball. And while he may not have been the most athletic looking player, Miller was very strong and very powerful.

He also enjoyed a pretty colorful nightlife, though one that was opaque to the rest of us. In those seemingly simpler days, groups of us would often get together and frequent the same bars or restaurants, but Miller never told us where he was going that night or where he'd been the night before. As a result, our PGA Tour colleague Jim Ferree dubbed Barber "The Mysterious Mr. X." Over time the moniker was reduced simply to X.

Up until the last time I saw him, I still called him X, not Miller. He had a great sense of humor and took to the nickname. But he also remained the man of mystery and a very close friend.
Barber played during an era when unorthodox swings were more common. I don't think he cared much about what people thought of his action. It worked for him. "The downswing is all that matters," Barber said.

Barber won 11 times on the PGA Tour and, as one of the pioneering members of the Senior Tour (now the Champions Tour), X collected 24 victories. He had some close calls at the majors. He was the 54-hole leader at the 1969 U.S. Open, but faded in the final round in tough conditions. Orville Moody won.

Barber will be featured in my next book (coming in 2014), along with many of his contemporaries.

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