Harmon won’t rule out Woods victory at Southern Hills

John Craven
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Harmon won’t rule out Woods victory at Southern Hills

18 Jul 2000: Tiger Woods of the USA shares a joke with his coach Butch Harmon during the second practice round at the 2000 British Open golf Championships at the Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland. Mandatory Credit: Harry How/ALLSPORT

Legendary swing coach Butch Harmon admits he can’t bring himself to rule out the possibility of a Tiger Woods victory at next week’s U.S. PGA Championship for fear of ending up with egg on his face.

Harmon confessed that he doubted if Woods would ever win again prior to his 2019 Masters triumph and the former swing coach to the 15-time Major winner won’t be making the same mistake again prior to next week’s event at Southern Hills.

“Can he win? I never thought he’d win again before he went on to win the 2019 Masters so I would never say never when Tiger is concerned,” Harmon told CBS.

“Southern Hills, unfortunately it’s not in the summer like it has been in the past where it’s 100 degrees and 100% humidity. I’m not going to say he can’t win but if he shows up, it means he has worked harder than he did before the Masters and his game will be better than it was before the Masters or he wouldn’t show up.

“So I’m never going to say never with Tiger Woods because he’ll prove you wrong every time.”

Harmon and Woods split in 2002 after arguably the most dominant spell by a single player in golf as Woods romped to eight Major wins from 24 Major starts and collected 34 official Tour titles for a 27% conversion rate.

Tiger wanted to change his swing and Harmon was having none of it and although the pair have had their differences in the past, Butch remains a big Tiger fan, and given what he witnessed as Woods went through the pain barrier to play all four rounds at Augusta, he’s refusing to rule out a miracle with Woods a further six weeks down the road in terms of rehab and prep.

“First of all, that he was even able to walk 72-holes at Augusta was remarkable,” Harmon said.

“I played there the month before and yeah I’m 78-years old but I’m in pretty good shape but I got a cart to go up the hill on the first fairway and up the hill on the eighth fairway and up the hill on the 18th fairway, I’ll walk the rest of the way. So they he could walk 72-holes was amazing.

“I think that making the cut, he would probably not tell us this, but I think in his mind he’s probably telling himself ‘if I can make the cut, this is something special’. Unfortunately he ran out of gas [over the weekend] which was obvious.

“But this man has a tolerance for pain unlike anybody I’ve ever seen. I can’t tell you how many tournaments he won with a sprained ankle and he would tape that thing up so tight and he would never let anybody know he was hurt. [At Augusta] you didn’t see it until he walked off that 72nd green.”

In terms of pain and mobility issues, who knows what way Woods is ahead of next week’s assignment but on a recent recon mission to Southern Hills, he was spotted playing a practice round with the club’s head pro, Cary Cozby and after the pair walked all 18-holes together in what Cozby described as an “all business” trip, Cozby had no doubt that Woods’ swing was looking smooth.

“Everything is so smooth with him now,” Cozby told Golf Oklahoma. “His rhythm is great, he hit it straight and plenty far, he pitched and putted it great. I know guys can hit it past him now, but watching him work was amazing. He’s so meticulous, detailed and immersed in what he’s doing. He was very inquisitive on lines and the best angles.”

As ever, if Woods tees up at the event, he’ll be doing so believing he can win. Whether or not that matches up with the reality, who cares. And besides, Woods and reality have never gone hand in hand anyway, and 15 majors later, here we are speculating on the possibility of another. Who’d want it any other way?

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