Part 6 of 7 of the Classic Golf Channel Interview with Tiger Woods and Butch Harmon
PETER: …on the phone. How are you tonight Robert?
CALLER: Good Peter. How’re you doing?
PETER: Very well, thanks.
CALLER: Alright, the question I had: obviously your relationship is very good Butch as ours is. The question I had: Jack Grout and Jack Nicklaus obviously arguably the best relationship teacher-instructor over the course of Jacks career; and obviously you two are the same. Jack always said the main thing he got from Jack Grout was he learned how to teach himself when he was playing then. I was wondering, Tiger, how close are you to that and have you learned enough about your golf swing where you can take care of your problems maybe on your own if Butch happens to be in Malaysia, teaching the King of Morocco or whatever.
BUTCH: Or you even.
CALLER: Or me.
TIGER: Yeah, you still owe me too.
CALLER: Yeah, I know I know.
PETER: You want to explain that?
TIGER: Yeah, yeah he’s right on. But what Butch is trying to do is trying to make me understand my golf swing. And you get to a point where on the golf course, just like when Michael asked earlier in the show, that you’re trying to just get to a point where you can actually figure things out out on the golf course on your own; and trying to get in the clubhouse with the lowest score as possible. In order to do that, you have to have an understanding of your golf swing: what works best under certain conditions and from there you go ahead and you trust it. And Butch has done a wonderful job at teaching me what works best for me – it may not work for everybody but I understand my golf swing and that’s what’s important.
PETER: What do you do, when you’re not together to look at tapes and think through what should be the next step and the way to get to the next level, between the two of you together?
BUTCH: Well, as Tiger knows, I tape every tournament that he plays in and because I live on the West Coast in Las Vegas – I actually have a chance to look at it before I go home. Because after every round, he’ll usually call me and he knows that I’ve already taken the tapes, I’ve already downloaded them on my computer, myself and my assistants have already looked at it, we’ve stored the swings in the computer. I go home at night, he either calls me or I call him and we have a discussion about what you were thinking of on this shot and such and such hole; and why’d you do this. [laughs] His basic question will be, I’ll pick up the phone and I’ll go ‘hello’ and he goes ‘I can’t hit a shot’.
BUTCH: Of course, he may have just tried a 67 or something but ‘I can’t hit a shot, did you see the tapes?’, ‘yes, I already saw it. Here’s what I saw’. The beauty of Tiger and because we’re worked together for so long and we’ve been consistent enough in everything we work on. We’re always working on the same thing. It’s not gimmick. It’s not something new every time we see each other. It’s just constantly trying to improve his golf swing – not make him look like anyone else. And this is what everyone at home needs to know: is you want to get the best out of YOUR swing. So what we’re trying to do is with Tiger, is get the best out of his ability. And he knows I’ve already looked at it and I’ll say ‘and this is what you need to do’ and he’ll say ‘oh, okay. That answers why the ball started over here’. You go right on to practice the next day and we’ll change it.
PETER: Now, about a year ago you got a different call from him when you were working on the Range and you said ‘I got it’. What did you have?
TIGER: Well it was right before the Byron Nelson actually. And we had started in the middle 97 – I told you that I wasn’t happy with my swing at the Master’s even though I’d won by 12 and played great. But, anybody can time their golf swings for a week at this level – anybody can do that. But now, time it for an entire career – there’s no way I could have done that with that golf swing. So we decided to change it and progress fully we changed it over time in which we did. And this is a swing adjustment that I could have done, yeah over six month period would have been fine, but at what level would it have come out of there mentally – was the question. Would I have a zero confidence or any confidence or trust in my own abilities because I would have gone so far down? So we decided to do a step by step. So from 97 all the way through 98, to beginning of 99, I’m still working on the same things. I hit one golf shot. That’s all it took – one golf shot and I felt exactly what my golf swing needed to be and I said ‘you know what? I’m back’. Butchy, called Butchy and I said ‘Butch, I got it!’
BUTCH: Called me right from the Range.
BUTCH: Picked his cellphone up and said ‘I’ve got it’ and I said ‘you got what?’ and he says ‘it all feels natural now meaning I don’t have to think about all this positions’. The other thing that people don’t realize is, when Tiger made this change he still had to play. So this wasn’t something like a David Leadbetter with the Nick Faldo, for example, where they just stopped playing for a few months and rebuilt the swing. He had to play through this process, so it’s important to just do it step by step. He didn’t like it because he kept saying ‘give it all me now. Give it all to me know!’
TIGER: And one of the things that was driving me crazy was that in every press conference I was always asked ‘how do you feel about yourself ?’ and I said ‘I’m getting better’. ‘How can you say you’re getting better when you’re not winning?’, ‘well, I am getting better, it’s just it hasn’t shown up yet’ and when it did I started winning a lot of tournaments.
PETER: We’ll come back; we’ll talk about dealing with expectations of other people in just a second. Don’t go away.