Miller Barber, who won a record three U.S. Senior Opens with his distinctive looping swing, died Tuesday at age 82.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem released a statement Tuesday on PGATour.com. “We are saddened by the passing of Miller Barber,” said Finchem. “He was a wonderful player who made his mark on the PGA Tour with 11 victories and then really excelled on the 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.”
Barber won 24 events on the Champions Tour, and made a record 1,297 starts between the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
His three Senior Open victories are the most by any golfer since the championship started in 1980. His first Senior Open title came in 1982 at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club, where he bested Gene Littler and Dan Sikes Jr. by four strokes. Barber then claimed back-to-back Senior Opens in 1984 and ’85 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., and Edgewood Tahoe Golf Club in Stateline, Nev., respectively. He beat 1981 champion Arnold Palmer by two strokes in 1984, and 1980 champion Roberto de Vicenzo by four shots in 1985.
Barber excelled with one of the game’s most unorthodox swings, a quirk which he claimed was ingrained in him as a youth. Fellow tour pro Jackie Burke Jr. once said Barber’s swing made him look like an “octopus falling out of a tree.”
Barber’s “Mr. X” nickname came from one of two sources, Barber once explained to Golf Digest magazine. He wasn’t sure which made the nickname stick. Barber said George Bayer was considered the longest hitter of that time and went by the nickname “Mr. X.” Barber said that when he beat Bayer in a long-drive contest, the nickname transferred to Barber.
“The other,” Barber told the magazine, “is that Jim Ferree gave me the nickname because I never told anyone where I was going at night. … Ferree to start referring to me as ‘The Mysterious Mr. X,’ and it really stuck.”
Information from golfchannel.com was used in this obituary.