KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP)—Gary Woodland left Hawaii for a two-week break butinstead of heading to his home in Florida, he made a detour to Las Vegas to workwith new swing coach Butch Harmon.
Golfweek magazine reported Woodland will start working with Harmonimmediately. This follows an awkward offseason in which Woodland left agentBlake Smith of Hambric Sports Management to sign with Mark Steinberg at ExcelSports Management. Smith is the son of Woodland’s coach, Randy Smith, whothought it best that he and the big hitter part ways.
Woodland told the magazine: “Butch has taken people where I want to go.”
Woodland won his first PGA Tour event last year at Innisbrook, and he teamedwith Matt Kuchar in the World Cup to lead the Americans to victory for the firsttime in 10 years.
Harmon has taken two golfers, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods , to No. 1 in theworld. His current list of clients include four-time major champion PhilMickelson , Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson .
“I like my foursome. Let’s put it that way,” Harmon said.
LAY OFF THE ACCELERATOR: Johnny Miller was quick to point out how differenthe and Nick Faldo were as players, and he said this with some regret. Milleraimed at every flag he saw. Faldo was more of a strategist.
“Nick was the ultimate in restricting the temptation, playing a cautiousgame—middle of the green, swing easy, basically think his way around in anon-exciting way,” Miller said. “And that lent itself to winning majors.”
Miller won 25 times on the PGA Tour but had only two majors—the 1973 U.S.Open at Oakmont (lest anyone forget, he shot 63 in the final round) and the 1976British Open at Royal Birkdale over a rising teenage star named SeveBallesteros.
Faldo won six majors, three times each in the Masters and British Open.
“I played just the opposite,” Miller said. “I hit it as hard as I could,fired at every flag stick, and that lends itself to having train wrecks in themajors. If I had to do it over again, I’d have two gas pedals—one of themajors, one for the regular tournaments. I never figured that out.”
HAT FOR SALE: Scott Piercy ’s hat looks like a blank billboard, which isabout what it is.
Piercy has Titleist on one side of the hat and FootJoy on the other. Thefront was supposed to be another corporate sponsor but the deal fell through.Piercy, the Reno-Tahoe Open winner, wasn’t going to give it away for free.
“We had a couple deals that looked like they were going to close, and theyfell through at the last minute,” Piercy said. “As everyone knows, it’s toughout there right now. The deals that we did have weren’t the greatest, so wedecided to keep it blank.”
Piercy said he had a few offers, but “we didn’t get anything that we feltwas fair.”
The hat deal didn’t sour his mood—not in the least. Piercy made his firsttrip to the winners-only Tournament of Champions and tied for 12th after a rockystart.
Next up is the Sony Open, and Piercy already has noticed a change that comeswith winning. He has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and no longer feels hehas to rush into the year.
“It’s nice not to play for three months and have the first tournament beone you can kind of work into it, instead of showing up at Sony and having aso-so day or two and you’re going home,” he said. “You have a so-so day or twohere, you still have the weekend.”
At Waialae, the course will be filled with rookies eager to get going.
“They’re like, `Oh, man, I finally made it to the PGA Tour.’ We’ve all seenthat. I’ve done it,” he said. “As a rookie, you’ve got to kick butt on theWest Coast, and everybody but the rookies know it. So it’s nice to ease into theyear.”
AMERICAN RICHES: The Race to Dubai was announced with great fanfare for2009, which was to conclude with a $10 million purse at the Dubai WorldChampionship and a $10 million bonus pool.
Because of the economic crisis, the prize fund for both was reduced to $7.5million.
Going into its fourth year, the bonus pool for the top 10 players now is$3.75 million, with $1 million going to the winner—that compares with $10million for the FedEx Cup champion on the PGA Tour from a $35 million bonuspool.
The good news for Europe is that it extended its agreement for the Race toDubai through the end of 2014.
And while the bonus pool dwindled, the prize money for the DP World TourChampionship in Dubai has increased to $8 million, the same amount offered atThe Tour Championship.
GOLF CHANNEL: The Golf Channel must wait a few days to see if that Mondayfinish at Kapalua helped the viewership. But it couldn’t complain about thestart of the new season.
Coming off its biggest year, Golf Channel began 2012 with the highest-ratedopening round at Kapalua since it began broadcasting the Tournament of Championsin 2007. Friday’s coverage averaged 705,000 viewers (0.7 household rating), up27 percent over round one at Kapalua last year, and 50 percent higher than anyprevious opening round Golf Channel has broadcast at Kapalua.
DIVOTS: Martha Lang has been appointed to another one-year term as chair ofthe USGA’s Women’s Committee. … Gaylord Sports Management, whose list ofclients includes Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney, has been acquired byFrench-based Lagardere Unlimited. Steve Loy, who founded Gaylord in 2000, willbe the president of Lagardere Unlimited Golf. … Ryo Ishikawa is beefing up hisU.S. schedule. Along with playing in the Sony Open, the Japanese star hasaccepted a sponsor’s exemption to play the Farmers Insurance Open at TorreyPines. David Duval also received an exemption to Torrey Pines. … Of the last20 winners of the Tournament of Champions, Daniel Chopra (2008) is the onlyplayer who failed to make it to the Tour Championship. … Hunter Mahan hasrenewed his equipment contract with Ping.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Fifty years ago, Jack Nicklaus tied for 50th at the LosAngeles Open and earned $33.33. A three-way tie for 50th at the Sony Open thisweek pays $13,530.
FINAL WORD: “This is really the first and only event that is kind of like acongratulations for winning.”—Scott Piercy, making his debut in theTournament of Champions at Kapalua.