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Miller Barber Passes


Miller Barber, who won 11 times on the PGA Tour and then went on to 24 titles on the Champions Tour after turning 50, passed away Tuesday. He was 82.

Though he never won a Grand Slam event during his PGA Tour, Barber took care of that after joining the senior circuit, where he helped popularize the nascent tour after joining the year after it was founded. The Louisiana native racked up five majors on the Champions Tour, including three U.S. Senior Open titles.

"We are saddened by the passing of Miller Barber," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement released Wednesday. "He was a wonderful player who made his mark on the PGA Tour with 11 victories and then really excelled on 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. Golf has lost a great man and competitor."

With 24 titles, Barber ranks fourth all-time on the Champions Tour wins list behind only Hale Irwin (45), Lee Trevino (29) and Gil Morgan (25). He won at least one Champions Tour event for nine consecutive years from 1981-89.

Barber's nearest major victory in the 1969 U.S. Open at Champions Club near Houston. After accumulating a three-stroke lead through three rounds, he closed with a 78 to lose by three shots to Orville Moody. That same year he played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, followed by another stint for the American squad two years later. In two of the biennial competitions Barber had a 1-4-2 record.

Barber has the distinction of winning the longest regulation tournament in PGA Tour history, a mark that will probably never be broken. The 1973 World Open Golf Championship, played at Pinehurst Country Club, involved eight rounds and 144 holes. Posting rounds of 68, 74, 73, 74, 67, 73, 72 and 69, Barber edged Ben Crenshaw in the marathon event by three strokes.

Nicknamed "Mr. X," Barber told Golf Digest in 2005 there were two stories behind how he acquired the memorable moniker. In one, he assumed the nickname from the original Mr. X, George Bayer, after he out-drove Bayer in a long-drive contest at the then-Hartford Open.

In the other version, Barber said that fellow pro Jim Ferree gave him the nickname because "I never told anyone where I was going at night. I was a bachelor and a mystery man," prompting Ferree to call him "The Mysterious Mr. X."

Barber was a self-made golfer who had an unorthodox swing. One of his peers once said of Barber's move, "When Barber swings it looks as if his golf club gets caught in a clothesline."

Barber once explained to Golf Digest that "by the time I signed up for lessons when I was 13, the swing I have today was already ingrained. Over the years I tried to change, but I really couldn't play any other way.

"Jackie Burke says my swing looks like an octopus falling out of a tree, and others say I look like a man opening an umbrella in the wind. But after I loop the club to the inside on the downswing, I look like any other good player. The downswing is all that matters."

Several members of the golf community tweeted their thoughts after hearing of Barber's passing:

Golf instructor and CBS analyst Peter Kostis: "Miller Barber was a true gentleman that was special in many ways. I will miss him greatly. Miller . . . Rest in peace."

PGA Tour pro Kevin Streelman: "Miller Barber was on my favorite gentlemen I've met thru this great game I'll never forget hang at back range at Whisper Rock under his watch."

PGA Tour pro Geoff Ogilvy: "Rest in peace Miller Barber. Thanks for all the tips and stories. The back of the range at Whisper Rock will never be the same."

Miller Barber is survived by his wife, Karen, and five children - Casey, Doug, Brad, Larry and Richard. Funeral services are pending.

PGATour.com contributed to the above report.