2003: Newsmakers - Mickelson seeks Harmon’s counsel
Phil Mickelson recently questioned rival Tiger Woods’ equipment, but obviously he has no problems with the swing instruction Woods has received.
The week before the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Mickelson flew to Las Vegas for some schooling from Butch Harmon, Woods’ coach since 1993. They worked together during a lengthy, one-day session.
“He called out of the blue; I had no inkling,” Harmon said. “He wanted to get another opinion.”
And just what was Harmon’s take on Mickelson’s swing?
“I thought everything was a little loose – the length of his swing, the movement of his hips and knees,” said Harmon, whose students also include Justin Leonard, Mark Calcavecchia, Adam Scott, Darren Clarke and Stewart Cink. “Everything needs to match up together better.”
Mickelson said he was “working on swing changes” but declined to comment about seeing Harmon. Harmon said he was unsure whether they would work together again. “It’s up to him,” he said.
Harmon did ask Mickelson to tell Rick Smith, the left-hander’s instructor of three years, about their meeting. According to Smith, Mickelson called after the lesson and said, “ ‘Rick, you need to know what I did . . . (Harmon) told me the same things you’ve been telling me for three years.’ ”
Smith said he was “not hurt” by Mickelson’s move. Smith said Mickelson assured him he will remain his regular coach, and the two plan to work together again two weeks before the Masters.
“It’s the player’s prerogative,” said Smith, who had worked with Mickelson the week of the Buick Invitational, where the world No. 3 contended and finished fourth. “I don’t own any of my players. I’ve always considered it a privilege to work with them. It’s not about me; it’s about the player doing well. I don’t think it’s bad to seek other opinions to formulate your own opinions.
“Phil is hard-headed. Sometimes he needs things pounded into his head. I’ve been telling him for three years he needed to tighten up his swing and improve his leg movement. His swing is still long, his legs are a little too rubbery, he gets flippy and he needs to hit more fairways. I’ve always told him he needs more of a wide arc, not long. He gets stubborn.”
Mickelson defeated Robert Karlsson and Brad Faxon before losing to Jerry Kelly in the third round at La Costa. Meanwhile, Harmon’s prized pupil, Woods, won his first Match Play title in impressive fashion. Harmon and Woods still work together but have done so less frequently since late last summer. Woods visited Harmon in Las Vegas before his return from injury at the Buick Invitational, and they worked together during Woods’ winter rehab.
“Tiger doesn’t need instruction; he can teach himself,” Harmon said. “He just needs another set of eyes to check him now and then. And it’s been good for me because it gives me a chance to work more with my other players.”