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.
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.
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.
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.
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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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.