Butch Harmon

Port St Lucie, Florida - President Barack Obama practiced his putting technique with friends in balmy Florida on Saturday under the watchful eye of Butch Harmon, who once coached Tiger Woods.

The legendary coach “rode along with the president for a few holes in the afternoon” at the exclusive Floridian National Gulf Club in Palm City, said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman.

Joining them were US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, longtime Chicago friend Eric Whitaker, Texas businessmen Tony Chase, Jim Crane and Milton Carroll.

Crane owns the Floridian and Major League Baseball's Astros. Chase hosted a fundraiser at his home for Obama during the presidential campaign, while Carroll, a campaign donor, chairs public utility company CenterPoint Energy.

Obama was taking advantage of the long President's Day weekend to hit the links with his friends. It was a boys-only outing, with his wife and daughters off on an annual ski trip in the Rocky Mountains.

Obama, an avid golfer, normally tees off at Andrews Air Force Base during the summer months in Washington, and rarely plays at private clubs, unless he is on vacation in Hawaii or at Martha's Vineyard, a resort island in Massachusetts.

Harmon, who coached Woods during one of the hottest streaks of his career from 1994 to 2003, currently works with Phil Mickelson, who like Obama is a leftie.

The 69-year-old has also helped countless PGA Tour pros, including multiple major champions Ernie Els and Greg Norman.

“I've played golf with Ike, Nixon, Ford and President Bush 41,” Harmon told Golf Digest magazine.

“I know the president is a real keen golfer... It'll be fun to get him down in the learning centre, show him stuff in his golf game and see how he takes it to the course.”

Though he loves the game, Obama rarely mixes business with pleasure, most often playing with low-level staffers in the White House or close friends.

He has played several rounds with ex-president Bill Clinton and once invited House Speaker John Boehner, a fine club player, for a round, though the trip did little to bridge Washington's partisan divides. - Sapa-AFP