Lessons With Butch Priceless

By Brian HewittMay 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Former PLAYERS champion Adam Scott startled reporters this week when he told them Butch Harmon hasnt billed him a penny for all those lessons hes given him in the seven years theyve been together.
 
No, never charged me, Scott said. Its amazing.
 
Scott himself was a little startled recently when Harmon called Scott to tell him he was going to be working with Phil Mickelson but that Scott was still at the top of the totem pole on Harmons priority list of students.
 
He asked me if I was all right with it, Scott said. And I said, Sure, Im all right with it. Im not in charge of Butch.
 
For his part, Mickelson has decided not to talk publicly about the exact mechanics of his work with Harmon. Asked if the two would ever discuss course management, Mickelson said, I dont know how it will evolve, he said. Right now they are focusing on the driver.
 
Mickelson said the fruits of their official partnership, less than three weeks old, doesnt show up in the driving accuracy statistics yet but agreed that its no coincidence that he has finished in the top five in each of his last two events.
 
Asked about the difference between Harmon and former teacher Rick Smith, Mickelson quipped, He (Butch) probably swears a little more.
 
Mickelson is a non-winner at THE PLAYERS in 13 tries. He has missed the cut four times and once five-putted the 10th green. His best finish here is a T3 in 2004, the year Scott won.
 
EURO DROUGHT
Only one European has won THE PLAYERS, Scotlands Sandy Lyle in 1987. But Irishman Padraig Harrington was a runner-up in 2003 and 2004.
 
Harrington, who once planned and studied to be an accountant, thinks his methodical nature is an advantage at the Stadium Course because of the target golf point A to point B nature of many of the holes.
 
I think you kind of think your way around this course, he said. Theres a lot of options all the way around. You will see three guys tee up in a group and all three will hit different clubs off the tee. Theres a lot of choices to be made and play the course how it suits yourself. Its not a question of walking on to every tee and pulling a driver. Theres certainly a lot of options.
 
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchems first words to the media at his scheduled press conference were: Welcome to sunny, dry, warm Florida.
 
He was being sarcastic. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have alternately brought high winds, cold temperatures and rain to the practice rounds.
 
We never said it doesnt rain in May, Finchem said of THE PLAYERS move from March. We just said the patterns were different. More rain is forecast for Thursday and, possibly, the weekend.
 
Finchem also predicted a playoff Sunday for the first time in this tournament since 1987. Why?
 
Because were going late, he said, referring to the late starting time for the 54-hole leaders.
 
In other remarks, Finchem said the annual players meeting was moved out of this week because, with all the other activities schedule he didnt want it to be a distraction.
 
MORE ADAM AND PHIL
Scott is as curious as anybody as to how much and how quickly Harmon will be able to help Mickelson.
 
Scott and Mickelson found themselves paired the first two rounds at last months Masters and Scott couldnt help but notice Mickelsons wildness off the tee.
 
I dont think he (Phil) knew where it was going, Scott said. He could be pretty scary good if he gets the ball in the fairway.
 
DIVOTS
Sight seen at a Jacksonville area rock concert last week: Former TOUR pro Larry Rinker playing rhythm guitar for Stephen Stills. . . . Ken Duke arrives at Sawgrass with four straight top 10s on the PGA TOUR. Duke was exempt into the field by virtue of leading the Nationwide Tour in earnings last year. . . . No one has ever successfully defended their title at THE PLAYERS. And there hasnt been a playoff in this event since 1987 when Lyle defeated Jeff Sluman. .
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.