Butch Harmon was home in Las Vegas on Tuesday morning when all of a sudden his phone started ringing. The news that Tiger Woods had split with his instructor, Sean Foley, made Harmon a logical source for comment.
Harmon, who will celebrate his 71st birthday Thursday, reiterated what he has said for years: that he was not in line to return as Woods’ swing coach. Fact is, Harmon used the opportunity to praise Foley, saying that of the three coaches who have worked with Woods – Harmon, Hank Haney, Foley – the latter had the toughest assignment. “I had the easiest,” Harmon said.
The reasoning behind that is two-fold. One, when Woods first worked with Harmon, he was young and eager and had a desire to listen and learn. Two, he had great health and uncanny torque and coil.
Since Foley took over in 2010, Woods has been battered by a series of health issues, and there is serious debate among folks who know Woods and Foley as to whether or not the player was listening to his coach. “There were big problems on both ends,” said an acquaintance of both men.
That same source said if Woods were to call Harmon, “Butch would certainly listen and he’d probably ask his (other students, including Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker) what they thought. But Butch’s legacy is cemented. In the end, I can’t see him going back, if even offered.”
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PLENTY OF PITFALLS: There was a share of fifth at Las Vegas in just his second PGA Tour tournament as a member. In his eighth tournament, he was top 10 at Pebble Beach, then in his 11th, Chesson Hadley broke through at Puerto Rico for a victory.
All part of an unforgettable rookie season, right?
“It’s hard not to consider the season a success with the win, but it’s been a really hard year,” said Hadley, 27. “I don’t feel like I’ve played well at all.”
At the root of his discontent is the lack of consistency. After piling up FedEx Cup points in his first 15 tournaments, Hadley hit the wall. He has missed the cut in 10 of his last 12 starts and earned just 61 FedEx Cup points.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “It’s been no fun. I feel like I’ve done a few good things this year, but consistency-wise, it’s been horrific. It’s new territory, but I’d like to think I’m better than a lot of people and I could handle it better, and I haven’t.”
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TREND CONTINUES: For a while, it appeared that Stuart Appleby was in line to become the highest-ranked player to win a FedEx Cup playoff event. He went into The Barclays at No. 200 in the Official World Golf Ranking and would have surpassed the previous mark of Heath Slocum, who was No. 197 when he triumphed at the 2009 Barclays.
But Appleby ran out of holes and fell shy in the birdie department, leaving it to No. 42 Hunter Mahan to win.
That means of the 29 tournaments since the playoffs debuted in 2007, a player ranked inside the top 50 has won 27 times.
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LIGHT WORK, HEAVY POINTS: Of those in the top 10 of the FedEx Cup standings, No. 2 Rory McIlroy has played in 13 PGA Tour tournaments, No. 7 Jason Day in 11.
Just wondering whether officials had that sort of part-time work load envisioned when they dreamed up this thing.
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THE CAPTAIN’S KIDS: Somewhere last Sunday, Buddy Marucci had to be smiling. Four members of his 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team were in good form at the final round of The Barclays. Morgan Hoffmann, of course, was the feel-good story, threatening to win in front of the hometown folks, while Rickie Fowler continued his brilliant play with another top-10 finish. Cameron Tringale had his best PGA Tour finish (second), and Brian Harman stayed inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings.
That ’09 Walker Cup team steamrolled Great Britain & Ireland at Merion, with Fowler posting a 4-0 record and Hoffmann going 2-0-1.
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REWARDS OUT OF SYNC? With the mention of Tringale, however, comes a reminder that at times the rewards for FedEx Cup playoff success seem a bit out of whack.
He’s a nice talent. No argument there. But he had just three top 10s during the regular season and started the playoffs 61st in the standings. One week, a career-best PGA Tour finish (second), and guess what? He’s 10th in the standings and in brilliant shape to qualify for his first Tour Championship.
With that will come exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship.
Meanwhile, there were players who won tournaments in 2014 (Ben Crane, for instance) who still weren’t in the U.S. Open or Open Championship.