x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Woods' mentor counts positives from absence

Butch Harmon, the coach who helped Tiger Woods to greatness, believes golf has prospered in the absence of the world No 1.

Butch Harmon, left, coaches Adam Scott of Australia. Harmon believes world golf is in better shape since Tiger Woods' seven month absence.
Butch Harmon, left, coaches Adam Scott of Australia. Harmon believes world golf is in better shape since Tiger Woods' seven month absence.

DUBAI // World golf is in a better shape than it was when Tiger Woods began his enforced injury sabbatical seven months ago. Now the game's coming generation require the ultimate barometer of how far they have progressed - a fit-again Tiger. That is the view of the coach who set Woods on the path to greatness. Butch Harmon, who is in the Dubai to open his first golf school outside of the US, guided the world No 1 through the early stages of his career.

Harmon's students have combined for more than 100 PGA, European PGA, and Champions Tour victories while under his tutelage. His greatest protege, Woods, 33, has been out since undergoing knee surgery following his win at the US Open in June. He was ruled out of defending his title at the Emirates Golf Club long ago, but is expected to return for the US Masters in April. "I think it has been exciting, we have had a variety of guys winning championships," said Harmon, 65, who advises Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.

"We have seen Padraig Harrington become phenomenal at what he does. We have seen Camillo Villegas win big tournaments at the end of the year. "Rory McIlroy is a good player, Justin Rose has grown up a lot, now we are all waiting for Sergio Garcia to win a major. "There are some good things happening; it would be better if they could all happen with Tiger woods in the mix." Attendances at tournaments all over the world have suffered while Woods has been sidelined.

It is debatable whether golf has been hindered more from the global financial slowdown or his prolonged absence. "I don't think it has been dull, but we have missed Tiger Woods," added Harmon, who will officially open his new golf school in Dubai Sports City today. If you ask every professional, they will all tell you that they want to beat the guy who is the best. "He is the greatest player who has ever played, so, if he is not there, it is not the same."

pradley@thenational.ae