During his first session working with Lee Janzen, Butch Harmon set the tone for the relationship early. Janzen was hitting 3-irons and he flared one to the right.
“That’s not great but it’ll play,” Janzen said.
Harmon said, “That ain’t worth a sh**! Now there are plenty of guys you can work with who’ll blow smoke up you’re a** and tell you that’s OK, but if you’re going to work with me I’m going to tell you the truth. Shots like that are not going to cut it.”
It is that sort of direct approach, regardless of the student, that has made Harmon the No. 1 instructor in the world for the better part of two decades.
Now, at 70, Harmon has a new project: Rickie Fowler.
During his press conference to promote the Humana Challenge, the event where he’ll kick off 2014, Fowler said, “I want to be known as a great player. … I feel that with the experience (Butch) has as a teacher, he could help me reach my goals.”
Harmon is Fowler’s first full-time instructor since his coach Barry McDonnell died in 2011. They’ve had two one-on-one sessions in Butch’s Las Vegas studio since November, the last coming this past Tuesday, and they have traded calls and swing videos by e-mail.
Butch coached another young player in a similar way for many years. When Earl Woods first brought his son Tiger to Harmon, the two would only see each other a couple of times a year. The rest of the time, Tiger would mail videotape (the cheapest way possible) and Butch would call him.
According to published reports, Butch asked his current major-champion pupil, Phil Mickelson, if he had any objection to the Fowler project. Once Mickelson gave his blessing, the two began working together in earnest.
So far, it seems to have paid off. In his last two starts Fowler finished second in the Australian PGA and tied for eighth in the Thailand Golf Championship.
But while Fowler might think those finishes are fine and dandy for the offseason, he needs to get ready for a reality check. Butch will be the first to say, if you work with him, T8 in Thailand “ain’t worth a sh**.”