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Butch Harmon fear for Tiger Woods injuries

Top coach Butch Harmon has admitted Tiger Woods' heroics in winning this year's US Open while seriously injured may have hit his chances of overhauling Jack Nicklaus' record 18 Major titles.

Harmon said Woods took a huge risk in playing through the pain barrier in June, undergoing knee surgery a week later, although he expected his former pupil to make a full recovery.

"We hope that what he did by playing at the US Open with a broken bone and a problem with the cartilage in his knee, we hope that doesn't take away his chances to win it (the record), but we don't know," Harmon told AFP in an interview.

"We'll have to wait and see. It's either the most phenomenal feat ever in the game of golf or not a very smart thing if he played and he doesn't come back healthy," he added.

"I'm of the belief that he's going to be fine, he's going to be stronger than ever. The game needs him back and we all want to see him back."

Woods, who was frequently seen grimacing and limping as he claimed his 14th Major with a thrilling play-off win over Rocco Mediate, will probably be out until at least April.

However, he has said it could be 18 months before he fully recovers from two stress fractures and the reconstructive surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament.

The chasing pack has started to make up ground on golf's superstar with world number two Sergio Garcia eyeing the top spot and Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas among those to emerge in his absence.

Harmon, who is starting a signature golf school here, said Woods may have decided to play through injury because the US Open was at San Diego's Torrey Pines, the course he played as a boy.

"This year was on track to be an incredible year. He only played in six events I think and won four of them. He was on track for like a 2000 year when he won nine and three Majors," Harmon said.

"But I think he knew that the knee wasn't good. Probably if the US Open hadn't been at Torrey Pines where he grew up and played as a kid, he might not have even played."

Harmon said Woods, whom he coached for 10 years before being fired in 2002, would also probably have to change his super-aggressive swing to take pressure off his knee.

"I would think so, to be honest with you. It's the fourth operation on the same knee and this is the most extensive that they had to do," he said.

"But then again he's Tiger Woods—he's the greatest player that's ever walked on this planet."

He also warned the 32-year-old may have to curb his natural instincts and be patient as he recovers from the injuries.

"People will say we hope he doesn't try to rehab this too soon because he's such a gym rat. He loves to be at the gym and loves to work out," Harmon said.

"We hope that he doesn't push himself. But I think he knows his body so well he's going to be fine."

Asia's first Butch Harmon School of Golf complements the redesigned par-72 Caesars Golf Macau layout, which lies on Macau's gambling hotspot the Cotai Strip.


December 17, 2008

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