Butch Harmon on what makes Tiger Woods a great player

Butch Harmon, left, and Tiger Woods at the 2002 Open Championship.

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Tiger Woods knows how good he is. And Tiger Woods knows that you know that.

He has to know.

“Oh absolutely,” Butch Harmon said when asked by his son, Claude Harmon III, on an Instagram live video earlier this week whether players need to have a dose of arrogance to be the best.

“And you got to have a lot of prick in you. You have to be that kind of guy when you walk between the ropes. You and I know DJ (Dustin Johnson) as well as anybody. When he walks between the ropes, and Brooks (Koepka) is the same way, Tiger’s the same way, they just want to cut your heart out. They want to beat you. They’ll go to dinner later on, or we’ll have a beer afterwards and joke, but when it comes time to play, I’m going to really get you.

“Now, a Jack Nicklaus thought that way, but you would never know it by his demeanor. Tom Watson was the same way – you’d never know it by their demeanor. But they had it. They knew how good they were.”

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Woods knew that, Harmon said, during his six straight USGA victories in the ’90s.

At the 1991 and ’93 Junior Amateurs, Woods won on the 19th hole. In ’92, he won 1-up. At the ’94 and ’95 Amateur, Woods won 2-up. In ’96, Woods won on the 38th hole. All of the matches went the distance or beyond.

“He couldn’t tell you how he was going to win it – he just knew he was going to beat you,” said Harmon, who once instructed Woods. “And you can’t teach that. That’s that fight. That’s what the great quarterbacks have in the NFL when they’re coming down the stretch. It’s what (Tom) Brady’s always had, (Joe) Montana and all these great players. The great guys have that. They have that ability to reach inside, and they love the pressure. They thrive on it. They want it.”

Koepka, instructed by Claude Harmon III, played with that confidence during his four major championship wins, the Harmons said.

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“In Brooks’ case, I still don’t think he gets the credit for being as good as he is,” Butch Harmon said. “But he uses that to his advantage. That’s why he plays with that big chip on his shoulder. You don’t think I’m good? Let me show you how good I am.

“And then people will say, ‘Well, how come can he play so good in majors and not good in other events?’ Well, No. 1, he gets up for the majors. He likes the challenge. He likes to be there. He likes being the man.”

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.