Tiger Woods Favored to Return to Harmon as Coach, Oddsmakers Say

Tiger Woods will most likely return to Butch Harmon to help him break his six-year major tournament victory drought, according to oddsmakers.

Woods fired Sean Foley yesterday after failing to win one of golf’s four major tournaments during their four years together, and said he has no timetable for naming a replacement.

Harmon, who worked with Woods from 1996-2003 and helped him win eight of his 14 majors, is listed as an even-money favorite to be rehired by Paddy Power Plc, Ireland’s biggest bookmaker. Harmon is the 6-4 favorite at Leeds, England-based Sky Bet, a unit of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, and 7-4 by online sports book Bovada.lv.

After officially beginning to work with Foley at the 2010 PGA Championship, Woods won eight U.S. PGA Tour events. He earned PGA Tour Player of the Year honors in 2013 after winning five tournaments, the most he had in a single season since 2009.

“I’d like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship,” Woods said in a statement on his website yesterday.

After Harmon, Texas-based coach Chuck Cook, who has taught Jason Dufner, Luke Donald and Keegan Bradley, and previously worked with Payne Stewart and Tom Kite, has 4-1 odds at Paddy Power, followed by David Leadbetter at 7-1. At Sky Bet, Cook is second favorite at 7-2 odds.

Harmon yesterday told the Golf Channel he’s not interested in a reunion with Woods.

“No, I would not, and he’s not going to call and ask,” Harmon said. “I don’t think he needs a swing coach. If I were advising Tiger I’d tell him, ‘You’re the greatest player that ever lived, just go to the range and hit shots.’”

Neither Cook nor Leadbetter returned e-mails seeking comment about coaching Woods.

Struggling Season

This season has been one of Woods’s worst, with one top-25 finish in seven events. He missed the Masters Tournament and U.S. Open -- golf’s first two major events -- after undergoing back surgery, and withdrew from two other tournaments. After finishing 69th at the British Open in July, he failed to advance to weekend play at the PGA Championship this month, a week after suffering a back injury that Woods said wasn’t related to his surgery. He said he doesn’t plan to compete again until his World Challenge event in December in Florida.

“My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together,” Foley said in a statement. “It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him.”

Hank Haney

Woods had worked with Foley since former coach Hank Haney ended their professional relationship after six years together.

Following Woods’s 77 score in the second round of the British Open, former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, who now works as a commentator on the Golf Channel, was critical of Woods’s swing and his work with Foley. Chamblee declared “the Tiger era is over.”

“Saying ‘I want to get better’ is one thing,” Chamblee said of Woods’s reasoning for changing his swing. “Most people say that because, well, they’re not good enough, and they’re not the best. Well, he was the best, and he willfully dismantled the golf swing that made him the best player in the world.”

Foley’s Defender

While others have been critical of Foley’s time with Woods, Hunter Mahan recently defended his coach since 2007, saying people may not understand what he’s trying to achieve.

“It’s comical,” Mahan, who won the PGA Tour’s Barclays playoff event two days ago in New Jersey, said Aug. 21. “It frustrates me and kind of angers me a little.”

Woods’s inability to win a major title while with Foley has left him four wins behind Jack Nicklaus’s record total of 18. Woods’s last major win came in 2008, when he defeated Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff at the U.S. Open.

Over his career, Woods won eight of golf’s four Grand Slam events while working with Harmon and six with Haney.

Woods started working with Harmon as a 17-year-old in 1993. He won three U.S. Amateur titles and went on to capture eight majors with Harmon after turning pro in 1996. The two split when Harmon’s contract wasn’t renewed in 2002.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the year that Woods turned pro to 1996 in the final paragraph.)

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