No imminent Woods return – Harmon

Butch Harmon knows the way Tiger Woods thinks – and he does not believe the world will see him back playing this year.

Butch Harmon knows the way Tiger Woods thinks and operates – and he does not believe the world will see him back playing this year.
As Woods returned into therapy on Saturday and experts debated on American television whether the world number one might be battling more with depression now than a sex addiction, the world number one’s former coach said: “Mentally obviously he’s hurting – and it’s going to be a long road back for him.
“I don’t think any of us should expect to see him on a golf course any time soon because emotionally I don’t think he’ll be there.
“I personally do not think he will play this year. I have nothing to base that on other than I think it would be very difficult if he is sincere about this process of healing and getting to the roots of his problem.
“Rehab takes a long time. It takes a lot of perseverance. It takes a lot of soul-searching. It just doesn’t end in a month.
“Whether he plays against this year remains to be seen. But I do not think we should be surprised if he doesn’t.”
Harmon, speaking at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, also said Woods’ return is unlikely to be dictated by a burning desire to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors.
That has always been viewed as the main goal for the 34-year-old superstar, who has already reached 14 and appeared to have a great chance to move closer this year.
The Masters is at Augusta, US Open at Pebble Beach and Open at St Andrews – courses on which he has had seven of his victories and has won by 12, 15 and eight shots respectively.
They are the three biggest margins of victory in his 14 majors and he also won by five at St Andrews the last time the Open was there in 2000.
But Harmon, dropped by Woods in 2004 and now coach of Phil Mickelson among others, added: “I can honestly tell you, the 10 years I was with Tiger Woods I never heard him once say that was important.
“Never. I know a lot is made of that, but the only thing he said was important was beating everybody he played against and trying to get better.”
In an interview with Sky Sports News, Harmon also stated that once Woods is ready to return he should be expected to handle all the pressure which will inevitably be on him.
“He’s going to take a lot of criticism, he’s going to get a lot of protesters and things coming from the gallery that he’s not accustomed to.
“He has the strongest mind in the history of the game since Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan. Mentally, he’s probably strong enough to handle that.
“But I don’t think he can overcome this with the public perception of who he is. I think he’ll always be damaged that way.
“I think, when we look at Tiger Woods, we look at him completely differently to how we did before.
“I thought one of the telling things that I took away from this whole thing (Woods’ public apology) was that his wife Elin wasn’t standing next to him.
“I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but I thought that was very unusual to see.”
Meanwhile, a specialist dealing with cases of addiction was concerned by how Woods blamed himself over and over again in Friday’s statement at the US PGA Tour headquarters in Florida.
Dr Drew Pinsky commented: “He kept saying what a bad person he was. It was very distressing to me that he just kept beating himself up.
“Tiger mentioned (wife) Elin at least 15 times. He is trying to appease Elin’s anger. That isn’t his responsibility, that is Elin’s. Tiger needs to focus on his recovery.
“Tiger doesn’t seem to have capitulated to the process, he seems to be trying to explain his actions. Tiger must let go and flow into the process.
“It’s also unusual for him to be going back to rehab after being out. Now obviously I don’t have first-hand information about Tiger’s treatment, but it’s unusual to me that he is going back to rehab.
“Usually when someone leaves rehab they go to a step down lower level of care, maybe that is what he is doing, or maybe that isn’t possible because he is Tiger Woods.
“But just going back to rehab, that could be a sign that things aren’t going well. Tiger Woods is not a bad guy – he is struggling with a very serious addiction.”