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January 11 2012

2:00 AM

Woodland, Harmon have first session

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Gary Woodland ranked fifth on the PGA TOUR in driving distance in 2011.

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

There was a good reason Butch Harmon didn’t return the phone call right away. He was in the midst of a 5 1/2-hour range session Tuesday with his newest pupil, Gary Woodland , in Las Vegas.

“I spent all day with him,” Harmon said via cell phone. “He is incredibly athletic and what I really like about him is his work ethic and desire to get better. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Among the things they worked on was Woodland’s path and knowledge of his swing.

“He’s got a lot of golf savvy for a guy who hasn’t played for that long,” Harmon said of the 27-year-old who won twice in 2011 and ranked fifth on the PGA TOUR in driving distance. “He just needs a better understanding of his golf swing and why certain shots happen when they do. But he’s excited about the relationship.”

Last week, Woodland and longtime coach Randy Smith split after Woodland left Randy’s son Blake Smith of Hambric Sports Management to be represented by Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management.

Woodland played in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where he finished 24th, and said he expected to make a decision on a new coach within a couple of weeks. It didn’t take that long. Woodland flew straight from the tournament to see Harmon in Las Vegas.

“He called me and asked if I would have any interest in working with him,” Harmon said.

Harmon was interested and called his other clients, starting with Phil Mickelson, to make sure they were OK with it. Harmon also works with Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney.

“[Gary] fits into the profile of the guys I work with,” said Harmon, who has also worked with Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, among others. “He has a big swing and a tremendous amount of talent and is an awful lot of fun to be around.”

Woodland had worked with Smith since 2005 when he was a junior at Kansas.

Last year,  Woodland got his first career victory with a one-shot win at the Transitions Championship, then teamed with Matt Kuchar to give the U.S. its first victory in the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup in a decade.

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