Woodland’s new coach: It’s Butch Harmon
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Gary Woodland won’t be competing on the PGA Tour for the next two weeks, but that’s not to say he won’t be working. After finishing his final round at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Monday, Woodland was bound for Las Vegas to begin work with his new swing coach: Butch Harmon.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Woodland, who has worked for the past six years with Randy Smith. “Butch has taken people where I want to go.”
What part of his game does Woodland look forward to working on with Harmon?
“Everything,” he said. “Obviously I’m still talking with Fax (Champions Tour player Brad Faxon) on putting, but my game is close. I need to work on driving the ball better. If I do that, if I keep the driver in play, I think I can do really well out here. I think I’ll be able to compete with anybody.”
Woodland’s six-year association with Smith, who lives in Dallas, ended over the holidays when Woodland changed management firms, leaving Hambric Sports for Excel Sports, the stable that represents Tiger Woods. At Hambric, Woodland had been represented by Blake Smith, Randy’s son. After Woodland made his switch, Randy Smith made the call to Woodland, telling him that the two would be ending their six-plus-year relationship. Woodland thanked Smith for their time together, saying “I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
“We did some great work together, and I had some pretty good plans for Gary; he did, too,” Randy Smith said earlier this week. “But sometimes business decisions are made … I had to bow out of this one; I really did. I hate it. I think a lot of Gary. I think he’ll do marvels out there.”
Woodland said he bought a one-way ticket from Honolulu to Las Vegas on Monday evening, and would be on the tee working with Harmon at Rio Secco on Tuesday.
“I talked to him (Harmon) last Wednesday, told him I was looking for a coach, and he said he was thrilled,” Woodland said. “I’m good friends with Dustin Johnson and Nick (Watney), and I’ve hit it off pretty well with Phil (Mickelson, all Harmon students). So I’ll be there on the tee with Butch tomorrow until he kicks me out of there. I can’t wait.”
Said Harmon: “He reminds me a lot of Dustin Johnson. He’s got so much to learn, but he’s got so much talent. I’ve watched him play, because he’s friendly with my guys (Mickelson, Watney, Johnson). As a former basketball player, he’s so athletic, so competitive. I like that. It should be a fun year. I’m looking forward to it.”
Woodland won the Transitions Championship in 2011 and teamed with Matt Kuchar in late November to lead the U.S. to a victory in the World Cup in China. Harmon said that before he takes on a new player, he always talks to those with whom he’s already working. All three gave Woodland high marks.
“Phil (Mickelson), Nick (Watney), and Dustin (Johnson) all raved about him and said he was a heck of a kid,” Harmon said. “So I’m looking forward to it. . . . I like my foursome, let’s put it that way.”
– Jim McCabe contributed