Butch Harmon: Tiger Woods will only turn up at Augusta if he knows he can win

Former coach believes physical challenge of walking hilly course for four days will be key

Tiger Woods has a tremendous will to survive and should he play in the Masters and contend it may even surpass his 2019 victory, former coach and Sky Sports Golf expert Butch Harmon has said.

Harmon said he is not aware of how Woods's practice round with son Charlie and Justin Thomas went on Tuesday, but the key for Woods would be whether he can walk the hills of Augusta National after his leg injury.

After a car crash last year, Woods’s lower right leg was shattered, and many questioned if he’d ever walk again.

Woods has yet to confirm if he will play in the Masters this year.

“The way I used to know Tiger, I think if he doesn’t feel he can be competitive he wouldn’t even play,” said Harmon.

“He would know whether he can or can’t, and it’s not just one day, he’s gotta do it for four days in a tournament. If he does show up and play, I think we have to believe he thinks he can get it done.

“One thing I will tell you about Tiger Woods, you could never say never. He will prove you wrong. He has this tremendous will to survive, no matter what it is. I think we learned last time that I for one never thought he would win another tournament again, much less another Major.

“If he could pull it off and contend, I think it’s probably even bigger than when he came back and won in 2019, because you consider the severity of the incident, it’s amazing he’s still alive.”

Harmon said the Masters is wide open, given that a number of the top players in the world rankings are going into the tournament without wins this year, but picked out Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay and Tommy Fleetwood as players to watch.

“You have to have a good short game. I think Rahm is going to kind of come out of his funk. Cantlay . . . there’s another one. They putt well, you gotta look at good putters. Those greens are brutal at Augusta,” he said.

“[A] Couple months ago I watched Fleetwood hit some balls and I thought he’s swinging the club beautifully. I think he’s trending in the right direction.

"You know, apart from Scottie Scheffler, it's every week has a different winner. We've now got a different number one in the world.

On the new world number one Scheffler, he said what he is doing is “phenomenal”.

“The thing I like about him is he owns his swing. You look at his footwork, moving all over the place. It just shows you in golf. And his short game is great,” he said.

"He's reminding me a little of when Jordan Spieth came out. You know, it's such a young age and had that great run."

McIlroy’s wedge game

Harmon advised Rory McIlroy to follow Dustin Johnson’s lead on focusing on his wedge play to get to the top of the world rankings.

“He seems to be playing a lot better to me. I think he’s swinging the club better, and a big part for him, he’s starting to putt better,” he said.

"He reminds me a lot of Dustin Johnson five or six years ago, when I had a conversation with DJ at the end of the year and I showed him his stats from 150 yards and in, which he pretty much played every hole from. His proximity from the hole stat wasn't just bad, I told him it was horrendous.

“And I said if you can fix this, you’re going to be the best player in the world. And he went to work on it.

“DJ carries four wedges. That means you got 12 different swings as far as three links of each backswing.

“ I think if Rory would use that kind of practice and when he’s at home and really work on the wedge game, I think that’s the last piece of the puzzle for him.

“Rory’s got the most beautiful looking driver swing. You have a big flowing beautiful release and wedges are a little different than that. You gotta hold the club off a little bit.”

Harmon said his former player Phil Mickelson was a big miss for golf fans and for the Masters next week, but did not know the reason for his absence from Augusta.

“He’s kind of gone into hibernation the last six or seven weeks. So I think he’s just trying to get his life in order and figure out how to handle all this stuff,” he said.

Harmon said there had been a changing of the guard in golf in the past few years and the game was starting to be dominated by young players.

"I was doing a list the other day. Who's not in the Masters this year. I mean, you got Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Kaymer, Poulter, Stenson, Kuchar, Mickelson of his own choosing. But so there's a changing of the guard going on, on both sides of the ocean, and we've got a lot of great young players."

Watch The Masters this April live on Sky Sports and NOW. Coverage from April 4th-10th will be exclusively live on Sky Sports Golf

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