Butch Harmon makes a prediction about Rickie Fowler after changing his swing: ‘I think he’ll win this year’
SAN DIEGO – When Rickie Fowler reached out to Butch Harmon and asked him to take a look at his swing, the famed golf swing instructor, who had coached the 34-year-old Fowler during the most successful years of his career, admitted that he shared a thought with many of Fowler’s ardent fans: What took so long?
“I didn’t say it,” Harmon said at the PGA Demo Day on Tuesday ahead of the 70th PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, “but I was thinking it.”
Harmon chuckled and then his face straightened, and he continued.
“It was sad,” he said. “It was hard to watch him go from a perennial top-10 player in the world all the way to outside the top 150.” (Fowler dropped to 160th but has improved to 106th entering this week.)
Fowler finished 134th and 125th in the FedEx Cup rankings the past two seasons and hasn’t won since the WM Phoenix Open in February 2019, but Harmon predicts that will change.
“I think he’ll win this year,” he said, adding, “The game needs it.”
After Fowler opened with an even-par 72 in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open the South Course at Torrey Pines on Thursday, he was asked about Harmon proclaiming that victory was on the horizon.
“That’s going to happen,” Fowler said. “I thought he was going to say this week. I’m not off to the start I need but it’s not out of the question.”
Since parting ways with instructor John Tillery in September and announcing that he and Harmon had resumed working together, Fowler has shown steady progress in returning to the player who has five PGA Tour titles, including the 2015 Players Championship, to his credit. He recorded finishes in the top 10 twice in his first three starts this season, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the Zozo Championship.
Harmon and Fowler worked extensively beginning in November, Harmon said, to change the plane of his swing.
Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (Photo: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)
“He was way too flat and getting stuck, his left arm position is more up and he’s got more rotation in his hips during the backswing.”
Fowler concedes the swing changes are a work in progress and still look better on the range than they do on the course. He struggled with his driver and overall ball striking last week at the American Express, where he missed the cut, noting he got away from a feeling he’s striving for on the takeaway.
“I know for sure I’m doing the right things. I still have to give a lot of credit to (John) Tillery even though we didn’t have the success over those three years, I learned a lot and he put me in the position when I started back with Butch to have a better understanding,” Fowler said. “It’s been a lot of work but when you know you’re doing the right things and seeing the ball doing what you want it to do and getting some of those good finishes in the fall, it’s definitely nice to be gaining some confidence and momentum.”
Much like when World No. 1 Rory McIlroy reconnected with his longtime coach, Michael Bannon, CBS Sports lead golf analyst Trevor Immelman said he felt relief when Fowler rejoined Harmon.
“Butch just has this way about him. He’s a great coach,” Immelman said. “I think Rickie respects him enough to where he’ll listen and to where, when Butch is tough on him, he’ll react positively. And I just love what they’re working on. I spent a couple of days with them in Las Vegas at the Shriners (Children’s Open) and Butch was taking me through all the changes and I could see the difference on the range. And it’s you know, now I can start to see it’s bleeding in slowly on the golf course, which is the final hurdle.”