Miller Barber, who died on 11 June at the age of 82, was a golfer with a unique swing who made the most combined starts on the PGA and Champions tours. Nicknamed “Mr X,” he played in 1,297 tournaments on the PGA Tour and the 50-and-over circuit. He won 11 times in 694 PGA Tour starts and added 24 victories in 603 events on the Champions Tour.
“We are saddened by the passing of Miller Barber,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement. “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.”
Barber was born on 31 March 1931, in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up in Texarkana, Texas. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1954, served in the US Air Force and joined the tour in 1959. He won the 1964 Cajun Classic Open Invitational for his first tour title.
Known for his unusual swing that featured a flying right elbow, the two-time Ryder Cup player had his best chance to win a major championship in the 1969 US Open at Champions Club outside Houston. But after taking a three-stroke lead into the final round he closed with a 78 to finish three strokes behind the winner, Orville Moody.
Barber won five majors on the Champions Tour, including a record three US Senior Open titles. He made his last competitive appearance last year in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, teaming with Jim Ferree to tie for 11th place in the Demaret Division for players aged 70 and older.
“Miller Barber was a true gentleman that was special in many ways,” the CBS analyst and golf instructor Peter Kostis said. “I will miss him greatly.” The PGA Tour player Geoff Ogilvy, who spent time with Barber at Whisper Rock in Arizona, tweeted. “Thanks for all the tips and stories. The back of the range at Whisper Rock will never be the same.”
Barber said there were two stories about how he was tagged “Mr X.” In one, he took over the nickname from the original “Mr X,” George Bayer, after beating him in a long-drive contest. In the other, Barber said Jim Ferree called him “The Mysterious Mr X” because “I never told anywhere where I was going at night. I was a bachelor and a mystery man.”