Tiger Woods took a day off on Monday. After completing his third win and passing $2.5m (£1.6m) for the season at Bay Hill, the world No 1 could afford to rest. With the US Players' Championship starting here tomorrow, others could not. "To get Butch for six hours on my own, I was really thankful," said Darren Clarke.
Butch Harmon is coach to Woods and a part-time consultant to Clarke. The last time they worked together the results were spectacular. Clarke had the best week of his career, culminating in beating David Duval in the semis and then Woods in the final of the Andersen Consulting World Matchplay.
"I have to say the PGA Tour players have been unbelievable," Clarke said. "Every one of them has come up to me and said: 'Well done, fantastic playing'."
It is almost as if the Americans are beaten before they start when Woods, who has won 10 of his last 16 PGA Tour events, tees up. "He has an aura about him," Clarke said. "If you are playing against him week-in, week-out, which luckily we aren't, he is a tough guy to beat. He's a tough guy to beat anyway."
Clarke finished down the field on his return to the States last week and struggled on the grainy greens at Bay Hill. Harmon followed Clarke for five holes of practice at Sawgrass on Monday, they had lunch, went to the driving range and then spent time chipping and putting. "I fell into a couple of bad habits with my swing," Clarke explained. The club can get "stuck" on the downswing so that its face is not always square at impact. The Irishman rarely needs more than a check on the basics to put things right. Yet Harmon's input extends to all areas of his game.
"Butch is good for my confidence," said Clarke, who might appear the happy-go-lucky, cigar-puffing Irishman but is a notorious perfectionist. "While I'm hitting good shots, he will say: 'Great shot, great shot,' but as soon as I hit a bad one it's: 'Where did you go for dinner last night?' He ignores the bad ones and focuses on the good ones. He has helped me understand an awful more about what I am trying to do. Of course, the fact that he is coach to the best player in the world, if I can pick up any of Tiger's good habits, that will be great."
Clarke, who won $1m at La Costa, and his wife Heather, who is expecting their second child in October, suffered food poisoning from a sandwich on a shopping trip in London on his return. "We couldn't do much celebrating because we were sick all weekend," Clarke said. "We only had time for a sandwich because I was paying lots of bills."
This week's first prize is the biggest in the game at $1,080,000 (£690,000). "That extra 80 grand could come in handy," Clarke said.Reuse content