Gene Littler, 29-time PGA Tour winner and World Golf Hall of Famer, dies at age 88

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Gene Littler, a 1990 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee, passed away on Saturday at the age of 88. Littler ranks No. 19 all time in PGA Tour wins with 29, which included one major championship -- the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills -- and a successful battle with cancer in the 1970s.

Littler compiled 20 top-10s at major championships and came within two strokes of also collecting a Masters and a PGA Championship (he lost each one in a playoff in different years). He had a swing that Gene Sarazen once described as better than Sam Snead's and was a homebody who valued time with his family more than creation of a brand on the PGA Tour. 

He was also a winner.

"Gene was the consummate gentleman but also a fierce competitor. His rhythmic swing that earned him his distinctive nickname remains in our minds a thing of beauty. It was a pleasure to watch Gene Littler hit a golf ball," PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. 

"San Diego has produced great champions like Billy Casper, Phil Mickelson and Mickey Wright. Gene Littler stood right there beside those giants of the game, and we mourn the passing of a tremendous golfer, husband and father."

Gene "The Machine" Littler had a swing was magnificent and rhythmic. Even though the film isn't the highest quality, you can still see how good his move at the ball is in this video below. 

Littler's 1961 U.S. Open win followed his 1953 U.S. Amateur win, and he's one of just a handful to win both over the course of a career. Littler said the one-stroke win was unexpected because he had been injured earlier in the year and got off to a poor start. His 68 on Sunday was the best round of anyone in the top 10 and a 1-over score was good enough to beat Bob Goalby and Doug Sanders by one. An amateur named Jack Nicklaus finished T4.

Littler was never enamored with his own swing the way others were, but boy was it a sight to behold.

"I worked on tempo a lot, and I think my tempo was really pretty good," Littler said recently. "I think maybe that's what gives the impression of a terrific swing. I don't know if mechanically it was that sound or not, but it must have been OK."

Golf lost a good one on Saturday. A good man and a great champ with an all-time swing. Littler will go down as one of the best in the early days of the PGA Tour and a type of gold standard for those who came after him and walked in his footsteps.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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