Las Vegas, Nevada (August 15, 2010 UPDATED 8/15 6:17 PM)–At times during this PGA Championship, it seems like Las Vegas resident Butch Harmon has been the star of the show just for having a casual conversation with fellow golf instructor Sean Foley. Foley appears to now be the heir apparent to monitoring/fixing the swing of Tiger Woods. But the real stars are the guys on the course, and a few of them near the leader board just happen to work with Harmon, who operates the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Las Vegas resort golf course Rio Secco Golf Club. One of those is Las Vegas resident Nick Watney, who had a 3-shot lead entering the final round. LIVE SCORING. Watney struggled to a final-round 81 but another Harmon student almost made a playoff but was assessed a controversial two-stroke penalty.–By Brian Hurlburt.
UPDATE: Harmon pro Dustin Johnson had a putt to win but had previously grounded his club in a bunker. He didn't realize it was a bunker. That led to him missing out on the playoff with Bubba Watson and eventual champ Martin Kaymer. Johnson commented: "I don't know if I can describe it. You know, walking up there, seeing the shot, it never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap. I guess it's very unfortunate. I guess the only worse thing that could have happened is if I made that putt on the last hole. I never once thought that I was in a sand trap. I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down. I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker. Obviously I know the Rules of Golf, and I can't ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess. Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder."
"I began working with Butch through a friend, Sam Reeves, who I met in Fresno where I went to college," said Watney, following his third round. "… I really honestly believed that he's the best teacher in the world. And I think his track record shows that is the case. So I'm very, very lucky to work with him and hopefully I'll get to see him later this evening and just iron out a few things and go out there tomorrow and give it a shot." Watney, who has lived in the Las Vegas area near Rio Secco, has worked with Harmon for about six years. You can click now to view more stories about tour pros with strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses from this web site.
Harmon has operated his school in Las Vegas for more than a decade and also works with Dustin Johnson, Stewart Cink and Phil Mickelson, among others. Each made the cut with Johnson starting the third round in a tie for second, three shots behind Watney. Cink was in a tie for 16th while Mickelson was in a tie for 34th early in the final round. IN 2009, Cink won the Open Championship while earlier this year Mickelson won the Masters. Johnson was in the lead heading into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach but struggled and didn't win. Harmon also worked with Woods for many years, and was spotted having a conversation with Foley on the driving range early in the week, sparking much conversation about the content of the discussion. Foley is a solid teacher himself, and works with Sean O' Hair, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, among others.
The Harmon School is located on the back end of the Rio Secco driving range in a stand-alone state-of-the-art facility, and contrary to some popular beliefs, is open to the public. Any Las Vegas golfer, visiting or local, can call and reserve lessons with Harmon's staff of pros (several work with tour talent in addition to Harmon) or with Harmon himself in golf school settings. Click now to view the official Harmon School website. Rio Secco Golf Club is 18 holes of Rees Jones-designed resort Las Vegas golf and is the home to the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge. There are official Las Vegas golf packages and Las Vegas tee times available at the official course website. Also, click now to meet the beautiful T-mates, female caddies that can enhance the round. Or click now to view the official course tour for Rio Secco. Plus, you never know who you will see at the Harmon School or Rio Secco.
"At this point it's just another golf tournament," said Watney, when asked about his mind set heading into the final round. "I think that's the best way for me to look at it. Obviously it's not, but I just need to go out there and keep doing what I'm doing. I'm playing very well, givinng myself as many chances as possible. I'm putting the best I have in a really long time." Watney is looking to clinch a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team with a solid finish at the PGA. He also could become the second golfer with strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses to win a major championship, joining the LPGA Tour's Inbee Park. Park, who played high school golf in Las Vegas, won the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. She now lives in California.
As far as the conversation with Foley? Golf World Tour Insider Tom Rosaforte was quoted as saying that Harmon told him the two were joking about having a team competition between their stable of students, and that Harmon and Foley could be the television commentators. Also, to back up Watney's sentiment about Harmon being the best, he has been voted the best for 10 years running in a poll of his peers in Golf Digest. Quotes from ASAPSports.com.