Tommy Gainey started the final round of the McGladrey Classic trailing 54-hole leaders Jim Furyk and tournament host Davis Love III by seven strokes. In the spirit of 2012, the winner of the event didn’t come from the last pairing on Sunday. Gainey became the fourth player of the season to overcome a deficit of at least seven.
The 37-year-old journeyman, who is known as “Two Gloves” for wearing two black gloves from tee to green (yes, he even putts with them), fired a course record 10-under 60 at the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga. He had a 15-footer on no. 18 to post The Magical Number (59). Strangely enough, Gainey, who usually gives his putts a good run, left this one short of the cup.
“Of all the people who have a putt for 59, you’re the last person I’d think to leave it short,” quipped Gainey’s caddie Marvin King as he recalled his conversation with Tommy in the scoring tent.
It would have been nice to make that putt, but turned out it was enough to hold off David Toms, who shot 63 to finish solo second, Furyk, who grinded until the bitter end and made several clutch putts coming down the stretch, and Love, who three-putted no. 14, almost holed out from the greenside bunker on the left for eagle (which Two Gloves did nearly three hours earlier from the one on the right), then rinsed his drive in the hazard on No. 16.
Interesting enough, Love’s last win was his 20th PGA Tour victory at the Disney in 2008. That time, it was Love who edged out Gainey. When the Ryder Cup captain and Sea Island resident congratulated Two Gloves, Love said, “Seems kind of odd, doesn’t it?”
Gainey shared the story in his upbeat press conference: “2008 everybody knows that was (Love’s) 20th win. And I was, you know, playing really well at that time because I think I ended up shooting like 63 or 64 that final round.
“And you know, he hit a tee shot like 16 today, when he rope hooked it in the water. 17 at Disney, he rope hooked it and it stayed up in that rough instead of going in the water, and he chipped out and made a 15-footer for par, and he got it up and down on 18 out of a bunker for par to beat me by one. And that’s the first thing he said to me when I seen him and he congratulated me.
“‘It seems kind of odd, doesn’t it?’ Because I know he was talking about that time in 2008 when he won.”
Gainey has a victory on the Nationwide Tour in 2010, but prior to that, he was perhaps better known for winning Golf Channel’s Big Break VII show (and of course, for being Tommy Two Gloves).
When Furyk saw Gainey in the scoring area, he greeted him with a big hug and the two shared some words. I thought I heard Gainey say something like, “Thanks for the talk…” I asked him if Furyk had given him advice at some point. Turned out last year at the PGA Championship, Furyk requested to play a practice round with Gainey, who was floored that Jim Furyk wanted to play with him.
“He just told me, he said, Tommy, you know, when you were on the mini tours, you were kicking their tail and now you get out here and you struggle a little bit. He said, man, don’t change your game. Just keep going at it. He said, you got the game to be out here and to win. Just keep your head up and just keep trying, and sooner or later it’s going to happen.
“And you know, who knows what would have happen if we didn’t play nine holes together, or even had a talk. So I mean I appreciate all the help I can get because, you know, I know I’m 37, considered a veteran maybe, but you know, I’m still young when it comes to out here.”
Furyk, of course, is known for his unconventional swing, which he manages to repeat consistently. If you haven’t seen Tommy swing, it’s…well, interesting, and makes Furyk’s swing look smooth. But I thought that also was very telling and nice of Furyk — he often takes younger guys under his wing, but he does it very quietly.
What was perhaps most telling to me about Two Gloves happened during the trophy presentation, where he was endearingly tongue-tied during his speech. At the end when he was posing for more pictures with the trophy, he said to his caddie, “It’s your trophy, too.” He told Marvin to grab the other side of the handle and raised it together.
It was the first time I’d seen a player make a gesture like that.
Tommy’s victory was also a win for the guys grinding it out on the mini tours and Web.com Tour, especially for the 30-something players who sometimes need a little boost or hope. It’s a reminder that the improbable is possible; that the different or unorthodox isn’t wrong; that the ability to embrace your own individuality is powerful; and that self-belief and determination pay off.
Tommy Two Gloves, ladies and gentlemen, is now a PGA Tour winner — don’t ever underestimate the underdog.
(AP Photo/Stephen Morton)