After Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey putted out on No. 18 at TPC Scottsdale, he first patted Mark Wilson, who was reading his birdie putt for the win in regulation, on the back for encouragement. Then, he pointed at the crowd all around the green and clapped, thanking the fans for their support at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Only ten minutes earlier, Gainey had tripled No. 17, putting a costly blemish on an otherwise great week and squandering away $246,000. But Tommy Two Gloves walked away with at least 246,000 more fans and became golf’s latest folk hero.
Gainey’s run at the Phoenix Open wasn’t his first time at the rodeo. The 35-year-old former Big Break star earned his 2008 PGA Tour card through Q-school, and after struggling all season, he shot a final-round 64 at the Children’s Miracle Network classic to finish second to Davis Love III by a stroke. After losing his PGA Tour status, he returned to the Nationwide Tour, where he qualified for the bigs again by placing fourth on the 2010 NWT money list.
Last week Gainey held the lead after the second and third rounds. When play was called on Sunday due to darkness, Gainey had fallen back two strokes out of the lead after consecutive bogeys. On Monday morning he stroked in a ten-footer for birdie on No. 15 to pull within one shot of Wilson.
Then disaster struck on the tricky No. 17, a drivable par-4. Gainey’s drive found the drink to the left of the green. I arrived just in time to watch him take a drop on the shaved bank. He called over a rules official to ensure he was following protocol. The thing is, the ball wouldn’t stay up even when he tried to place it.
“It was pretty bad because I had to drop on the sidehill,” explained Gainey. “I was worried about the ball rolling back in the water instead of trying to hit the shot. I was just trying to get over it fast and just kind of get it on the green and just take a two-putt or whatever. But I was very worried about the ball rolling back in on a severe slope like that.”
The result? A chunked chip that didn’t make it up the slope and rolled back in the water. Gainey walked away with a triple-bogey 7.
I was impressed with Gainey’s attitude. After all, he just blew a chance at getting in a playoff on the second-to-last hole. He walked to the 18th tee with his head held high and bombed a drive down the middle.
Before the disastrous triple, Gainey was in solo third. Had he parred out and finished in the same position, he would have collected $408,000. But Gainey dropped to a tie for eighth and earned $162,000. Crazy how one bad shot or bounce can turn into a mistake worth nearly a quarter of a million. (That’s why we love golf!)
While the rough finish is going to sting for a few days, let’s hope we see much more of Tommy Two Gloves on the leaderboard this season. It’s hard not to root for a guy who wears two black gloves (even when he putts) and has a goofy swing, not to mention a great backstory (before turning pro, he worked on an assembly line in South Carolina, wrapping insulation around hot water heaters).
“For three rounds I played excellent,” said Gainey. “The fourth round, not so great. You know, I’m not real happy with the fourth round, actually kind of pissed. But I guess I’ve just got to deal with it. You’ve got to win with class and you’ve got to lose with class, so I’m trying to deal with that right now.”
If only more guys handled disappointment with such sportsmanship.