Major wins around the corner for top pupils

By Brian Keogh

Coaches don't win championships.

But swing gurus Butch Harmon and Bob Torrance are convinced that Major victories are just around the corner for star pupils Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington.

Harmon has only been with Mickelson for three weeks but has already tasted success with the left-hander's two-stroke victory in The Players at Sawgrass on Sunday.

And while Torrance is in his 11th season with Dubliner Harrington, he too believes that Major success is just around the corner.

As he waited for Harrington to arrive at Adare Manor for this week's Irish Open, the veteran Scot predicted that the European No 1 is closer than ever to the Holy Grail.

Torrance said: "I think it is close. He told me after the Masters, ‘Bob, I know I can win The Masters now’.

"You see, Padraig, when he’s thinking good, has the strongest mind in the business.

"But you’ve always got to strive for perfection and with Padraig we’re only trying to better what he has before."

Harrington is in the process of changing his swing to make his ball flight even more penetrating as the US Open at Oakmont looms large.

And while the Irish star finished a disappointing 52nd at Sawgrass, Torrance points out that he is a work in progress and the main objective is to give the Dubliner more power right through the bag.

Torrance said: "The aim is to get more power, more consistent shots. We were just trying to improve how he goes through the ball – lengthen it at the bottom of his swing."

But while Torrance is still waiting for Harrington to deliver the goods in a Major, Harmon is hoping to taste the same success with Mickelson that he had with Woods, before he was fired.

Mickelson's game was good enough to three Major titles - two Masters and a US PGA.

But the new world No 2 knows that he threw away last year’s US Open and has turned to Harmon to find some consistency off the tee.

As he departed Sawgrass on Sunday with the game's Fifth Major in the bag, Mickelson handed Harmon the flag from the 18th green, signed it and declared that the best was yet to come.

The left-hander's 31st tour win came on the heels of two third-place finishes in the three weeks since he officially left his long-time friend and teacher Rick Smith for Harmon.

Infamous for his wildness off the tee, Mickelson hit 10 of 14 fairways and and 16 of 18 greens.

Mickelson said: "What's most exciting is I feel like we're just getting started.

"If I keep working at these things and keep progressing, I should be able to take on the ultimate tough challenge at Oakmont.

"Our goal is to eliminate half the trouble. Then I only have to worry about half of the golf course, and that makes it a lot easier."

Harmon helped Greg Norman and Woods to the top of the game and believes that Mickelson can only get better.

Butch said: "You're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. He's going to get a lot better."

Torrance believes Harrington is on a similar path and with the US Open less than a month away, this week's Irish Open could be just the start of something big.