From where Butch Harmon stood -- on a hillside of trampled grass
among hundreds of golf fans -- Greg Norman looked about as big
as a songbird on a fence post. Even so, the Texas club pro could
tell, at a distance of 350 yards, that his famous pupil's tempo
was off. Saturday's winds and the U.S. Open pressure had Norman
rushing the change of direction at the top of his swing,
sending his tee balls off-line. "I don't have to be standing
next to Greg to check that," said Harmon, making mental notes
for his next practice session with the Shark. "You can tell by
the angles in his follow-through what he's doing in the swing."
From where Norman stands -- which is near the pinnacle of world
golf since Harmon overhauled his swing four years ago --
whatever Claude (Butch) Harmon Jr. says is bankable. Norman's
confidence was in full retreat when he hooked up with the
Houston teaching pro in October 1991. He had fallen from first
to 53rd on the PGA Tour money list and couldn't make a golf ball
fade or draw with regularity. "I told him he had to go back to
being Greg Norman," Harmon recalls. "He had become a mechanical
swinger, and by nature he's a freewheeler."
Harmon had his pupil focus on slowing down and "tightening up"
his backswing to aid in distance control and to eliminate pushed
shots. The payoff came in July 1993 when Norman won the British
Open at Royal St. George's. "It took Greg a while to get
comfortable with his new mechanics," says Harmon. "But he seldom
hits that push shot anymore."
Norman is Harmon's principal client, but Davis Love III, Mark
Calcavecchia and U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods also count on
the Texan's coaching. Like a trainer working with thoroughbreds,
Harmon sticks to basics and leaves "swing systems" to the
pedagogues. "People ask me if I'm afraid I might screw up one of
these fellows," he says with a chuckle. "It never enters my mind."
But then, to be a Harmon is to be a confident teacher of golf.
Harmon's three younger brothers -- Craig, Dick and Billy -- are
all noted teaching pros. Their father, the late Claude Harmon,
won the 1948 Masters but was a career club pro who worked at
Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (A forerunner of
today's swing yogis, Harmon Sr. kept his teenage boys' swings
"connected" by strapping their arms to their sides with a belt.)
Butch played the PGA Tour from 1969 to '71.
"Most of my teaching is with my club members," says Butch, who
is director of golf at Houston's Lochinvar Golf Club. "I often
tell my members who have very bad swings, 'You probably have
more talent than Greg Norman.' And when they ask why, I say,
'Because if I got Greg in the position you're in at the top, he
probably couldn't even hit the ball.' "
COLOR PHOTO:JACQUELINE DUVOISINThe Shark was sinking fast before Harmon (right) arrived on the scene to buoy his confidence. [Butch Harmon talking with Greg Norman]