Butch Harmon: All Fired Up

Butch Harmon: All Fired Up


It’s a little unfair when people say that if it wasn’t for Tiger Woods no one would know who Butch Harmon is, because I took Greg Norman to No. 1 in the world long before Tiger came along. Did Tiger help my image or career? Of course he did. I’d be a fool to say he didn’t. And it will do the same thing for Hank Haney.

I don’t feel slighted that Tiger left me and went to Hank. The best managers in baseball get fired. The best coaches in football get fired. They move on. I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all. If you’re the type of person whose feelings get hurt because your student leaves you, you’re in the wrong business. We had a great 10 years. I’m happy with my position in life and Tiger’s happy with his.

The Greg Norman situation was totally different. He fired me over a miscommunication about a clothing contract. That was all. It had nothing to do with how he was playing. A couple of years after we split up, he apologized to me.

Does Tiger play better with a Butch Harmon swing or a Hank Haney swing? The answer is no and no. Tiger is the best player in the world and any way he decides to swing he’s going to figure it out. He’d be a great player if he played left-handed.

It really doesn’t surprise me that Tiger revamped his swing. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, but he loves to tinker and he’s always trying to get better. Only time will tell if he can have another 2000 [nine Tour wins and three majors].

I tell everybody in my schools that they can blame Butch Harmon for every bad shot they hit. “Don’t feel like you’re going to hurt my feelings,” I say, “because I took two guys to No. 1 in the world and they both fired me.”

I have flags hanging in my school from guys who have won their state amateurs, the USGA Senior Championship, junior championships. I get as much satisfaction out of their success as I do from working with Tour players. When you see your students improve, that’s the great joy. It doesn’t matter if it’s an 18-handicap who takes himself down to a single digit. Teaching is teaching.

My dad [GOLF MAGAZINE World Golf Teacher Hall of Fame member, Claude Harmon] believed the things you learn after you think you know it all are the most important. It’s true in life, in business and in teaching. Some of the things I teach today are different than the things I taught eight or 10 years ago.

You don’t teach talent, but you can mess up talent if you try to teach it too much.

Never in my life have I put a feeler out that I’d like to work with a player. Everybody I work with comes to me.

In 2010, Tiger Woods will still be No. 1 in the world. There are some young guys who might challenge him, but the sad part is very few of them are Americans. Maybe our players rely too much on a swing coach, a putting coach, a mental coach and a change-your-underwear coach.

I once told Charles Barkley that I didn’t want to give him a lesson because I spent 40 years building a reputation and he could kill it with one swing. Chucky loves golf — he just has a mental hang-up, and I don’t have the answer. I always feel like I can help anybody, but I don’t think I can help him.