Claude Harmon III likes to be out there. Fair enough. To make a career out of coaching high-level Tour pros, you often need to promote yourself. And so, Harmon has a good relationship with the press, in that he talks to them often and is eager to do so. Sometimes too much.
On Sunday at the PGA Championship, he started talking, and, well, his mouth got out ahead of him in several spots. Adam Schupak was there and transcribed Harmon. Golfweek printed the monologues in unchallenged block format without any annotations pushing back on falsehoods or points of contention (a separate matter that requires its own scrutiny). The comments were then aggregated to the hilt with the usual choose-your-verb (“Rips”/”Slams”/”Scolds”/”Goes Off”/”Calls Out”/”Blasts” was taken by the original article) headlines.
There are a couple good points buried in Harmon’s seven-layer dip of strawmen, false equivalencies, revisionism, whataboutism, mixed metaphors, and incoherent rambling. But most of what Harmon said was nonsense.
For example: being hired and paid by a head of a state is slightly different than being under contract with a network that contracts with the Olympics which then does business with a head of state.
Or: what he said was a made-up “kool-aid narrative” about washed-up golfers taking the money and running that has actually been articulated quite often by the league’s own players, such as Ian Poulter in Full Swing and elsewhere, Lee Westwood while he was contemplating the Saudi proposal, or, yes, Brooks Koepka himself saying at the Masters that he might not have left the PGA Tour if he’d known last year that his health would have been as good as it is now. Almost every point can be quickly countered like this. Harmon hits some red-meat talking points, but the substance is mostly, as NLU tweeted, a “Sir, this is a Wendy’s” ramble.
Setting aside the actual arguments and points, I’m left wondering why Harmon felt compelled to pop off like this. I wonder if he’s asking himself the same question a few days later. Here is what is likely a partial list of people who were not thrilled to see these comments become a story…
1. Brooks Koepka—The now five-time major champ is one of the LIV defectors who has made efforts not to get in squabbles with his PGA Tour contemporaries. It seems he’s largely been accepted, like DJ, and avoided using anything he does, like winning a major, as a way to win points in the LIV-PGA Tour battle. So I can’t imagine he’s thrilled with this becoming a dominant story after his win, because the headlines identify Harmon as “Brooks Koepka’s coach” before they do by the instructor’s name.
2. NBC—For obvious reasons, as they were a primary target of some of Harmon’s most incendiary accusations. As someone who likes to be on TV, Harmon’s napalming of at least one big media bridge and any prospects of working with the network seems to be an especially big unforced error.
3. Brandel Chamblee and Eamon Lynch—Whatever you think of them, Chamblee and Lynch are two voices in the game with some degree of prominence that Harmon has now chosen to make into enemies.
4. LIV Golf!—While the disruptor league and its associates may have quietly cheered on the screed, LIV has done better this year by taking a much more low-key, less directly confrontational approach in its battle with the PGA Tour. After some confusion about a snippy comment about Jay Monahan in Australia, a LIV spokesperson told Sports Illustrated that, “We are trying to avoid that kind of hostility in our press conferences.” Harmon took the opposite approach here, and anytime someone goes off like this on behalf of the league, it tends to have a counterproductive impact and put LIV under a microscope. So I’m not sure even LIV loved this becoming a high-profile story.
5. Will Zalatoris—Wow, what a drive-by by Claude on the injured Zalatoris! Harmon created unnecessary beef, but as a rip job that you didn’t see coming, it was entertaining. He also threw Max Homa into this crowned start bucket.
6. Tom Watson—Have we not dragged the old man enough for his blundering 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy? Maybe not! Because this was a new one, as Harmon told an appreciated behind-the-scenes story of Watson asking Brooks where he was a club pro at during an encounter at the 2014 PGA at Valhalla. Koepka was not yet Koepka, but he was far from an obscure club pro—Brooks had finished tied for fourth at the U.S. Open just two months earlier! This is the good stuff but Mr. Watson probably does not appreciate Harmon bringing this to light at this juncture.
These are just some of the parties who probably didn’t love seeing this rant take off. So who did probably love it? The LIV bots. Phil. Other propagandists. These are all people Harmon had in his favor and could have kept there with nothing more than a wink. Strategically, this all seems like an own goal that Harmon might regret in a quieter, calmer moment.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.