Tiger says Butch talked out of turn

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- The war of words between Tiger Woods and former coach Butch Harmon heated up Saturday at the U.S. Open.

Woods has been relatively quiet about his split with Harmon, one of the most influential swing gurus in the game. But moments after a third-round 73 that left him well off the pace at Shinnecock Hills, Woods responded for the first time to Harmon's inference that Woods is in "denial."

Woods said that friends should settle their differences out of the public eye.

"Obviously, he doesn't really know what I'm working on, and he's never asked me and I've never talked to him about it and no one knows," Woods said.

Woods and Harmon began working together when Woods was 17. That was 1993. With Harmon as his coach, Woods won the U.S. Amateur three times and eight majors as a pro, highlighted by five of six in one stretch in 2000-01.

They parted ways in August 2002, though they continued to work together by phone (most recently before the 2003 U.S. Open). Woods hasn't won a major since.

Friday, Harmon was quoted by Reuters as telling European broadcaster Sky Sports that: "Tiger Woods is not playing well, he is not working on the right things in his golf swing although obviously Tiger thinks he is.

"He should have felt 'I could win this tournament by six, seven, eight shots.' That was the old Tiger Woods."

Then, Harmon added:

"But for him to stand there at every one of his interviews and say 'I am close, I feel really good about what I am doing,' I think it might be a bit of denial."

Countered Woods: "I don't understand why he would ever say anything like that, especially when we've been as close as we are. And we've resolved everything, I thought. I thought everything would have been cool.

"For him to go off and say things like that, I don't understand where he's coming from. It doesn't do himself or anyone any good."

Woods was asked whether he still considers Harmon a friend.

"That's what I don't understand," Woods said. "I mean, friends say that face to face. If you and I were like that, and you would say something like that to the rest of the media, we would have a problem with that. If you go say something like that, you go right up to my face and say it. And that's what we used to do. And I think that's the way it should have been handled."

It's not the first time Harmon has commented on Woods since their breakup. At the Masters in April, he told Golf Digest's Jaime Diaz: "There's no animosity, but I don't see Tiger and I working together in the future. That's really all I care to say."

"Right now, it's like they're trying to outstubborn each other, and these are two very stubborn people," Bill Harmon, Butch's youngest brother, told Diaz and Golf Digest. "No one's winning here. I think they are both losing. What used to be a win-win is now a lose-lose."

Woods said he wasn't sure when he'd speak with Harmon.

"He's working and I'm working," Woods said. "I don't know."