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Woods & Harmon row rumbles on

Tiger Woods vehemently disagrees but his former coach Butch Harmon is probably right on the mark when he says the world number one is in denial over his form.

Following his battling 76 in the U.S. Open final round on Sunday for a share of 17th place, Woods has now gone eight majors without victory and is still struggling with accuracy off the tee and from the fairway.

Had it not been for a brilliant short game and some exceptional putting this season, his 2004 record would be dismal.

Woods is without a strokeplay title on the PGA Tour since the WGC-American Express Championship last October. Of the 66 players who played all four rounds in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, he ranked 50th in fairways hit and 40th in greens reached in regulation.

Yet the 28-year-old American, who has no equal in the modern game when it comes to taking the most positive approach, insists he is very close to his best.

"I know I haven't played up to my absolute peak week-in week-out, but then who does?" he said. "It's certainly not through lack of effort.

"I hung in there, grinded my tail off, I really did. I did the best I could.

"I've had my chance to go to the weekend (in the majors) but, as long as I'm still in contention, then it's bearable.

"If I wasn't in contention at all, that stretch would be a different story," he added, referring to his run of eight majors without a win.

Woods has become frustrated over the incessant analysis of his golf swing by television experts in recent months, and took particular exception to comments made by Harmon on Friday.

Harmon, who coached Woods during his remarkable run of seven major triumphs in 11 starts from the 1999 U.S. PGA Championship to the 2002 U.S. Open, said the world number one had to accept he was not playing well.

"I have to do my job as an analyst and that was my opinion and how I felt," Harmon told NBC television.

"He doesn't like people to dissect or take his swing apart. I think the bottom line is, if we look at the Tiger Woods of say 2000, it's a different person.

"In the past, he would have a bad round, like he's had numerous times this year ball-striking wise, and he would tell you: 'I played poorly and my short game saved me. I'm going to the range to figure it out.

"We don't hear that anymore," added Harmon, who parted with Woods after the 2002 U.S. Open.

Unquestionably, Woods appears to lack the confidence in his swing that was taken for granted during his annus mirabilis of 2000, and his aura of invincibility has all but gone.

Many of his peers now believe it is well-nigh time for him to reunite with Harmon while some believe his hunger for the game has waned a little since he became engaged to Swedish fiancée Elin Nordegren last year.

Former world number one Nick Price is among those who has been surprised by the Tiger Woods of 2003 and 2004.

"There's something wrong with his swing, this is the first time we're seeing him missing fairways with an iron off the tee," said the 47-year-old Zimbabwean.

"Until he starts hitting fairways, I don't think he's going to play any better. He can't keep on doing this. And it's not one shot (that's gone wrong). He's hitting a big hook, and he's blocking it too.

"When he starts hitting more fairways, he'll win again. Every great player has gone through a lull in their career: (Ben) Hogan, (Jack) Nicklaus. We need him back in the picture."

Woods may be tired of the ongoing scrutiny of his swing by players, fans and the media. Something has to change, though, if he is to regain his stranglehold on the game.

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