16 Feb 2024

Question Time with Claude Harmon III

As well all know, golf has been in uncharted territory over the last two years. What will happen to LIV? Does the ball go too far? Will Tiger ever win again? Nobody can answer any of those questions with any degree of certainty. However, world-renowned instructor Claude Harmon III is more qualified than most to voice an opinion on everything in this game. Worldwide Golf caught up with the American at the Els Club to find out just what he thinks of the sport as we head deeper into 2024.

Worldwide Golf: What do you make of the plans to roll the ball back in the future?

Claude Harmon III: From what I see, the USGA and the R&A think that technology – the driver, the golf ball – go too far. But if that’s the case, I should be able to pick up Rory McIlroy’s driver and carry it 330 in the air like he does? I think it’s archaic thinking to think that in 2024, it’s just technology. I think if you’re just looking at technology as to why the golf ball goes too far, I don’t see the 25 handicapper hitting the golf ball any straight or any further. I see the best in the world doing that. There is an art to hitting the golf ball far. I don’t see technology helping the average golfer at all.

WWG: Do you think in the professional game the ball should be brought back?

CHIII: I don’t. I don’t see anything wrong with the professional game of golf. There are people in golf who want golf to be the only thing on the planet that doesn’t change. It doesn’t make any sense to me. We’re also the only sport where there is a segment of people who want to watch the best golfers in the world struggle. That doesn’t happen in any other sport. Nobody goes to the World Cup final and wants to see a nil nil draw. Nobody wants that. Nobody wants to see the best footballer struggle.  

WWG: Harrington recently said he doesn’t think the human body has reached its peak in terms of how far the a human can hit a golf ball. What do you think of that?

CHIII: I saw a stat the other day that over half the golf tournaments on the PGA Tour last year were won by players who had under 176mph ball speed with the driver. Wilco Nienaber, Gordon Sargent and all these guys that are carrying the ball. Are they winning five times a year? There are some players who hit nine irons crazy distances. They don’t win any golf tournaments. 

Despite his age, Harrington is getting longer with age

WWG: Last year was full of controversy, but one thing that stood out was the Ryder Cup. What did you make of that event?

CHIII:The Ryder Cup was amazing, and I think the Europeans did a fantastic job. I’ve been to the majority of the Ryder Cups since 1993 and when the Americans play in Europe, the crowds hostile, when the Europeans play in America, the crowds hostile. I don’t have any problem with that. It’s like that in every other sport. The Europeans are passionate, it speaks to how important the event is. It was a great spectacle.WWG: What do you make of the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and LIV Golf merging?

CHIII: I don’t think it’s going to happen, I really don’t. I think there’s a group of people in the US who don’t like the fact the Saudis have come in and done what they’ve done. Professional golf for a long time has been broken. The Tours knew it was broken, the agents knew it was broken and the players knew it was broken. But nobody could come together to have any sort of changes. In two years, LIV and the Saudis have come in, and everybody on the PGA Tour will make exponentially more money than they’ve ever made before and that is 100 hundred percent because of LIV, and competition. Until they came in, there was no competition so the PGA Tour did what they wanted. 

WWG: How do you see this all unfolding, and where will the game be in five years’ time?

CHIII: I really don’t know where it goes from here, but what I do know is, competition is part of a free market. Golf can’t be the only thing that doesn’t operate like everything else. I live in south Florida and a lot of New York finance people have second homes there. In the finance world, companies buy companies all the time, mergers happen all the time. The PGA Tour has had to pivot. I think that LIV is forcing them to revaluate. Hovland’s recent comments about how he feels the PGA Tour has badly managed the PGA Tour. I just don’t think there was any competition. This has been going on for a long time. It seems to me that the Tour thought it was going go away and they didn’t have to do anything. In my opinion, none of this needed to happen. 

WWG: Tiger Woods looking like he’s coming back this year, how excited are you to see him back?

CHIII: Talking to the players who were down at his tournament at the Hero, they said he was moving better, walking better. I know his trainer Colby quite well and he said it’s been a long process but his body is starting to move better. There’s been a lot of trial and error with Tiger off the golf course to see how much he can push. He’s going to push as hard as he can. Colby has been a huge part. He looks like he’s in good shape and swinging the golf club well. I think the big question is whether he can stay healthy, and get enough momentum playing such a limited schedule. 

Tiger returned at the Genesis Invitational and is set to play a once-a-month schedule

WWG: How much has his swing changed over the last 20 years?

CHIII: Massively. It’s all based around the injuries that he has. If you look at how much he’s been injured, he’s had to work around a lot of the issues that he has. I think how much can he practice? How hard can he push? How many tournament reps can he get? I think the other thing that nobody talks about is he’s not the same player as he was. He was so great that everybody keeps thinking that we’re going to see we’re going to see the Tiger of old. He was so great. Such an amazing golfer, and an icon. He was somewhat a victim of his own success. He is judged by such a different lens. So if Tiger plays six, eight events this year doesn’t contend in any of them and misses some cuts… I think the Tour has changed the schedule is 100 percent so Tiger can continue to play, I just believe that. That’s just my opinion.

WWG: And finally, what’s your standout bold prediction for 2024 in the golfing world?

CHIII: I think the one thing in 2024 is the LIV players will be more competitive. Nobody is going to be surprised if someone from LIV in a big tournament plays well, and that’s a positive. The narrative was that they are all washed up, and Brooks Koepka should have won two Majors last year. I think you’re going to continue to see good play from players all over the world. 

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