Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: October 30, 11:56 AM ET
Tommy Gainey swings for the fences
By Farrell Evans, with Mitchell Spearman
Be honest. "PGA Tour player" are not the first words that come to mind when you see Tommy Gainey swing a golf club. After his final-round 60 on Sunday at the McGladrey Classic to earn his first PGA Tour win, you had to wonder if it was a fluke.
Could a man with two gloves, a baseball grip and a hockey-length backswing consistently beat the best players in the world?
Obviously, the swing is only one component of a winner's arsenal. Gainey had to have the mental fortitude and drive to continue following his dream -- from the mini-tours, to the emotional roller coaster of gaining and losing and regaining his tour card, to the pressure of being in contention in a big tournament.
Players with near technically perfect swings have turned out to be one-hit wonders, and so-called unpolished artists like Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Hubert Green and Raymond Floyd all won majors and had Hall of Fame careers.
Yet the substance of a player's swing is always a good gauge of his long-term future in the game.
Gainey is certainly a folk hero for the baby boomers who grew up with the helicopter finish of Palmer, the weekend mat rats, the union men squeezing in 18 holes before the night shift, and the kid not fortunate enough to get professional instruction from the age of 6.
But Gainey's eccentric methods are no recipe for a long career on the PGA Tour.
The 37-year-old Darlington, S.C., native has an unconventional grip that creates a less-than-orthodox release of the club. By placing his right hand so far underneath the shaft at address, it eliminates any arm rotation in the swing. He "de-lofts" or shuts the clubface on the backswing and then holds the clubface open through impact. This promotes the awkward Palmer-replica follow through where the left arm resists folding in the natural way.
Gainey is probably never going to be a top-10 player in the world, but he could amass a ton of top-10 finishes and have the occasional win.
His success so far has been fueled by a couple of factors that could benefit any player. In his backswing, Gainey gets more distance from the grip end of the club to the ball than anybody on tour, which is where he stores his power. He is a great ball striker because of the incredible lag in his swing. But the downside of that is poor distance control with his irons and wedges. That probably explains why he's ranked 188th on the PGA Tour in par-3 scoring.
Gainey could become more consistent with his irons by not getting his hands so far in front of his navel at impact. Right now his swing path is too much from the inside, which causes him to start many of his shots to the right of his target as well as hit his irons too far.
He shouldn't change his grip because the ripple effect of how he releases the club would be too dramatic. However, he could stand a little taller at address and crowd the ball less. This would give him a hair more time to complete his backswing, especially with a driver.
A good practice drill for a non-technical player like Gainey would be to hit mid-to-short irons off a slight downhill lie, which would encourage him to not have his hands so excessively forward at impact, and encourage his right shoulder to stay a little higher through the shot.
Two Gloves knows better than to tinker too much with a swing that's gotten him a pretty special day job, but hopefully now that he's a PGA Tour winner, he has the confidence and courage to take his game to the next level.
|Many analysts have said Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey's move looks more like a baseball swing than a golf swing.|
Farrell Evans is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com. Mitchell Spearman is a top 100 Golf Magazine teacher and author of "AIM of Golf."