Is Lefty Right?
Let the speculation begin!
Phil Mickelson announced Monday that he will start working with Butch Harmon, the coach who helped Tiger Woods become the dominant player in golf. Here are some of the thoughts and opinions of the editors of GOLF Magazine on Mickelson's decision:
1. Will Butch be able to help Phil find fairways and contend in more tournaments week-to-week?
It's been said by me and others that Mickelson's Winged Foot meltdown might end up being a good thing in that it might be what finally wakes him up. So far so good. Mickelson's fairways-hit percentage can't go anywhere but up, which is going to make Harmon look like a genius because when Mickelson hits fairways, he wins. The only question is, how long will it take? If the transformation happens too quickly, i.e. a W at the Nelson this week, it might look like a slap in the face for Rick Smith. If it happens too slowly, Mickelson and Harmon, two guys who don't lack for egos, might wear each other out and go their separate ways.
2. Will Phil be a better player at Oakmont because of this move or will it take longer to see the effects in his game?
He will be a better player, but I don't think he'll win. Late April is a bit late for a swing overhaul; the last thing you want rattling around your brain while playing a course as hard as Oakmont is a laundry list of complicated swing thoughts.
3. What is going through Tiger Woods' head now that one of his main rivals will be working with his former guru?
I'd imagine Woods has a bit of a smile on his face, as do so many people today. The idea is too delicious not to love: Harmon and Mickelson each looking to the other for a measure of redemption and a leg up on their common tormentor, Woods. It would be a terrific story, but almost certainly too much to hope for, if a Harmon-fueled Phil surpassed Tiger in the World Ranking someday.
Harmon, the only teacher to take two players (Tiger Woods and Greg Norman) to No. 1 in the world and get fired by both of them, is a no-nonsense, tough-love kind of guy who at the very least should help Mickelson play a more disciplined brand of golf. Question is, can he plug Lefty's leaky driver?
Mickelson (and Rick Smith) seemed to have the riddle solved at Pebble Beach earlier this year, where Lefty split fairways with Fred Funk-like consistency. The mojo didn't last, however, and that's the thing with Mickelson: every time you think he's turned a corner, his old demons poor decision-making, untimely wildness come crawling back.
Exorcising those demons once and for all should be Harmon's first priority. In an interview with Harmon early last year, he told me there was one elite player in particular he would love to get his hands on. He said only that the player was American, but revealed no more. I wonder if he finally got his wish, and if he can make good on it. Stay tuned.
To read what fans like you are saying about the new relationship between Mickelson and Harmon on the GOLF.com blog, and to post your own comments, click here.