Butch Harmon not pulling for Mickelson or Watney

By Associated PressMarch 14, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' Butch Harmon was a busy man Saturday in the WGC-CA Championship.
 
He is working at Doral as a television analyst for Sky Sports, which was kind enough to allow him extra time Saturday to work with a couple of his clients, who just happened to be in the final group.
 
One of them was Phil Mickelson, one of the most famous names in golf.
 
The other was Nick Watney.
 
They go into the final round of the World Golf Championship in a share of the lead.
 
All you can do is prepare them to play, Harmon said. Its not about whos going to win and whos not going to win. You hope they come down to the last hole tied and one of them holes a putt to win.
 
This is not the first time Harmon has had to split time with his stable of golfers.
 
In the Accenture Match Play Championship final in 2000, he was working with Tiger Woods and Darren Clarke. After they finished the morning round and went out to the range to warm up, Clarke yelled down the range to Harmon, who was working with Woods, Hey Butchy, I dont need you. Im hitting it perfect.
 
Clarke went on to win the match.
 
Two weeks ago, Harmon had to watch clients face each other in consecutive rounds at the Match Play ' Stewart Cink beating Mickelson, then Cink defeating Ernie Els.
 
Harmon said he spent most of the offseason teaching Watney not to have such a strong grip, and Watney was thrilled to see that pay off at Torrey Pines when he hit a high fade into the par-5 18th green, which led to a birdie and his one-shot victory.
 
Im honored to be working with him, Watney said. He is, in my opinion, the best in the world.
 
Mickelson said he has finished making changes to his swing with Harmon, and now it is a matter of keeping everything in order.
 
We have been able to do two things now'take the right side out of play, but also take the left side out of play, Mickelson said. That has been the real key.
 
Harmon said he devoted 20 minutes to Mickelson and 10 minutes to Watney on the range Saturday.
 
Mickelson said it was more one-sided in his favor.
 
Nick does the 25-minute pre-round warm-up, Mickelson said. So he hits all of 11 shots before he goes and plays. He requires about 90 seconds from Butch, and Ill end up taking the other however many minutes.
 

 
KIM AND TIGER: One peculiar statistic that is sure to change the longer Anthony Kim plays is that he has never finished ahead of Tiger Woods in a tournament. Kim only joined the tour two years ago, and the WGC-CA Championship is the 13th time they have been in the same tournament.
 
Doral might not be the place to change that trend. Woods shot a 68 on Saturday and was at 7-under 209, putting him three shots ahead of Kim going into the last day.
 
Kim wasnt pleased with his round, but he patiently made his way through a long line of fans signing autographs, one earphone in to listen to music, the other out to listen to the fans.
 
Anthony, youre my favorite player, one of them said to him.
 
You might want to find someone else, the way I played today, Kim replied with a grin.
 
Kim has not played consecutive PGA Tour events this year, and will take next week off. But his plan is to play Bay Hill and Houston before going to Augusta National for the first time.
 

 
IN THE LEAD: Only twice in the nine years of this World Golf Championship has someone come from behind to win. Then again, Tiger Woods has won this event six times, and he hardly ever gives up a 54-hole lead.
 
The exceptions?
 
Hidemichi Tanaka had a one-shot lead over Mike Weir and Mark Calcavecchia at Valderrama in 2000, and Weir rallied to win. And in 2005 at Harding Park in San Francisco, John Daly had a one-shot lead over Colin Montgomerie. Woods rallied to force a playoff with Daly and beat him on the second extra hole.
 

 
DIVOTS: Tiger Woods return to golf was perfect timing for NBC Sports, which began its PGA Tour coverage at the Accenture Match Play Championship. But it hasnt worked out all that well. Woods was eliminated on Thursday in Arizona, and when NBC began its weekend coverage at Doral, Woods was on the 14th green. The network got him for an hour. Azuma Yano was the only player to make bogey on the par-5 opening hole, which played downwind. The average score was 4.101, the same average as two par 4s on the front nine, and easier than the two par 4s on the back nine. Soren Hansen had the low round of the day, shooting 29 on the back for a 64.
 
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.