Butch Harmon answers the key questions on Tiger Woods' future
Last Updated: 03/02/17 11:58pm
As the future for Tiger Woods became more uncertain following his withdrawal from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, his former coach Butch Harmon spoke to Sky Sports and struggled to find any positives from the latest developments.
Butch coached Woods for 10 years and guided the superstar to his first eight major titles before they split in 2004, and he admits the future currently looks bleak for the 41-year-old.
Woods pulled out before starting his second round in Dubai, and his manager Mark Steinberg explained he was suffering with back spasms rather than nerve pain.
But with Woods in the early stages of coming back from almost 18 months out of the game following his third back surgery in 2015, Butch questioned whether the 14-time major champion can get himself healthy enough to compete again at the highest level.
Should golf fans be concerned?
BH: I think all people who love golf should be concerned. Just look at the size of the crowds turning out to see him last week in San Diego, and it was the same in Dubai. When Tiger Woods comes to play it's big news.
But unfortunately, what we're seeing is what we've seen many times over the last three or four years. Tiger has not been himself and has not been able to play at the level he's used to.
Once again his back is bothering him, and I don't know what to read in this. I heard Mark Steinberg, his manager, saying it wasn't nerve pain, which I can understand having had back problems myself.
Steinberg said the problem was back spasms, so maybe pulling out in Dubai was just a precautionary move as he didn't want to go out there and hurt it any more. But I can't see how any of this news can be good, to be honest.
Have his back problems been caused by too much 'bulking up'?
BH: When he got bigger and bulkier, the speed of his swing didn't really increase, but a lot of people build up their body to protect their back. You try and work on your torso to make yourself stronger, but I think the problems Tiger has had didn't come from golf - they could have come from too much work in the gym.
Only he can tell us that, but there was a definite change in his body through the years, although when I saw him in San Diego he didn't look as bulky. He looked like he had slimmed down and trimmed down, which I though was going to be pretty good for him.
Then we get the news that he had withdrawn from Dubai.
Can he regain the form we saw in his heyday?
BH: I'd like to say yes, but it doesn't seem likely at the moment. Tiger is 41 years old, he's had three back surgeries and four knee surgeries, and the young kids on Tour right now are playing better and better.
I'd like to see him healthy and competing again, but watching him last week and in the first round in Dubai, you can clearly see how much slower his body is through the ball. It was almost like he just couldn't get through it.
Are we ever going to see him playing at the heights he did back in the early 2000s? Probably not, but the main thing he has to do right now is somehow get himself healthy. He's been off for almost a year and a half, and now he's come back but he still can't finish a tournament. To me, that's not a good sign.
What are Tiger's fellow professionals saying?
BH: I was in San Diego last week and it was awesome. So many players were going up to Tiger and talking about how happy they were to see him back, and he was well received in the locker room.
Tiger has always been good with other players and anybody that plays this game or works within golf owes a lot to Tiger Woods. We wouldn't be making the money we have over the years if is weren't for him.
We all want to see him playing well again, but right now I'm concerned that someone I have admired for so long, and who I believe is the best player who ever lived, might not be able to play at any kind of level again.