Bolton, Mass. — When Tiger Woods shucks his crutches and protective boot, the former No. 1 might want to heed the advice of a guy who’s teed it up with him for a lot of years.
“I think [Woods] should “suck it up and call Butch [Harmon],” PGA Tour pro Chris DiMarco said Monday. “I don’t know if Butch would answer the call….”
DiMarco, who along with LPGA Tour star Natalie Gulbis, participated in a day-long charity event at The International Golf Club and Resort to benefit the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Clubs of Massachusetts, and the McGladrey Foundation, recalled Woods’ swing of yesteryear.
“I played with Tiger in the early 2000s when he was with Butch and it was unfair because he had the best swing and he hit the shots that nobody else could hit and he had the best focus on tour,” seven-time career winner DiMarco told a full house of Special Olympians and golfers who ponied up $5,000 per foursome to play The International’s two championship courses. “It was unfair. It really was.”
Harmon was Woods’ swing coach from 1996 through 2002. During their time together, Tiger won eight major championships, including his 12-stroke Masters victory in 1997 and the 2000-2001 “Tiger Slam.” Woods did pretty well under the tutelage of Hank Haney, chalking up six more majors, but has struggled mightily to find a consistent swing since hooking up with Sean Foley in 2010.
DiMarco offered some insight into distractions the post-scandal Woods faces from shot to shot when he’s on the course. The 42-year-old New Yorker knows a thing or two about Woods’ game. In 2005, DiMarco lost a sudden-death playoff to finish second to Tiger at the Masters in which the then-dominant Woods made that unbelievable chip shot on the 16th and jarred a downhill 18-foot putt on 18 to win. DiMarco lost to Woods again, by two shots, in the 2006 British Open.
“When Tiger was at the top, there were people rooting against him and he could handle that,” DiMarco said. “People would tell Tiger he stinks and it didn’t bother him one bit.”
Since his life outside the ropes became grist for the gossip mill, Woods has had to deal with wisecracks and titters that tax what used to be his other-worldly concentration on the task at hand.
“Now it’s more of a personal thing [about] what he went through,” DiMarco said. “He’s hearing things on the course from people that he didn’t hear before that takes him out of his focus.
“He used to have the greatest focus of any player in the world by far,” DiMarco noted. “Now, it could be anything; it could be a guy sitting there with his wife [taunting], ‘Hey, Tiger, how’s my wife look?’ That’s going to take him out of his focus and he never had to deal with that before.”
DiMarco added his voice to those of other tour golfers who believe Woods will come roaring back into contention.
“I’ve learned one thing over the years,” he said. “You can never count that guy out. He’s got more talent than anybody I’ve every played golf with.”
(Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. Check her out on the Waggle Room, Boston Golf Examiner, National Golf Examiner, and GottaGoGolf websites. You may also follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer.)WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?