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Butch Harmon: Tiger Woods’ swing ‘very robotic’

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Butch Harmon and Tiger Woods in 2002. (Getty Images)

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These days, you can't swing a cat without hitting someone with an opinion on Hank Haney's Tiger Woods-themed book "The Big Miss," and one of those with the best perspective on the book — another of Woods' former swing coaches — has broken his silence on Haney and Woods.

Harmon coached Woods from 1993 to 2004, taking him through his early successes and his initial exposure to the world. And the Woods he sees now is a far different player than the one he coached, both physically and mentally. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Harmon was direct: "For me, and I think we saw this at the Masters, he looks like he's playing 'golf- swing' and not golf," he said. "In my opinion, he's very robotic. And you could see that at Augusta with all his practice swings and the double-cross shots when he's trying to fade it and he hooks it. I think everyone thought because he won at Bay Hill that he was back; well, he didn't hit it great at Bay Hill, he hit it OK. And Bay Hill's not a major."

Harmon suggested that Woods' problems could be solved with much less teaching, not more. He recommended Woods get out on a practice tee with nobody else around and start working on shaping his own shots, not trying to pile advice on top of advice. "Quit playing golf-swing and just hit shots; just say to himself, I'm gonna hit a low fade, and I don't need anybody to tell me how to do it, I'm just gonna feel it. He's Tiger Woods, for God's sake. He doesn't know how to hit a shot?"

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Harmon also expressed a bit of skepticism about Haney's motives in writing a book. "I'm very surprised that he would write it," he said. "I'd never do that to Tiger or Greg [Norman] or any of the guys I've been with. We get to spend a lot of time with these people, sometimes even more time than their own families. Things are said, or you see different things ... it is what it is, you just leave it where it belongs. I was really shocked to see him talk about Elin and Tiger's kids and stuff like that, I don't think that had any place in it."

As for his current pupil, Phil Mickelson, Harmon had a few choice words for Phil's decision-making on Sunday at Augusta, particularly when he butchered the fourth: "It was a bad shot," he said. "I'm not making excuses, but he did get very unlucky with how the ball bounced. And after that, I thought he played everything so quickly; I said on the [television] commentary, 'Oh my gosh, he's not taking any time at all.' Afterwards, when I talked to him about going back to the tee, he said, '[Shoot], I'd've probably ended up in the same place.' Well, that's one way to look at it."

It's a revealing little Q&A with good tidbits on the big stories of our time; check out more over at The Wall Street Journal.

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