Ex-coach still backs Tiger

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger isn't quite out of the woods yet.

But Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods' former coach with whom golf's superstar enjoyed his greatest success, said he agrees Woods is "close."

"He keeps saying he's close and obviously he is," Harmon told the Sun yesterday on the practice range at Orange County National Golf Center.

Harmon was on hand for Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show, making appearances for several of the manufacturers he represents.

Woods won his first stroke play event in more than a year last weekend when he captured the Buick Invitational, a slump some observers had chalked up to his well-publicized split with Harmon a couple of years ago. Working with Harmon, Woods had the greatest stretch in golf history when he held all four major titles concurrently (2000-2001) to invent the Tiger Slam.

The last major won by Woods was the 2002 U.S. Open -- the last time the two worked together.

GAME IMPROVING

Woods, now working with Hank Haney, came from behind to win last weekend and Harmon said he could see areas where Woods' game had improved.

"I thought he looked really good with his short and medium irons, but it looked like he still didn't feel comfortable with the longer stuff," said Harmon.

He marveled at Woods' ability to win even when he doesn't have his "A" game.

"I thought it was a great win for him," said a gracious Harmon. "I thought it was something he needed. I think the game needed to see Tiger win again.

"Once again, it showed to me how much better he is than everybody else because he didn't play that great and still won. That's why he's still the greatest player that ever played.

"Jack Nicklaus to me is the greatest champion there ever was and whether Tiger can eclipse that record (18 professional majors), time will tell. We see (Woods') brilliance when he wins a tournament and he doesn't play his best. When he plays his best, he's going to blow everybody away."


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