Wednesday 24 January 2018

Hank Haney’s book went down like a lead balloon in the Woods camp, but ‘Big Miss’ reveals human side of the Tiger

Hank Haney and
Tiger Woods in
happier times at
the USPGA at
Hazeltine in 2009
Hank Haney and Tiger Woods in happier times at the USPGA at Hazeltine in 2009
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

HANK Haney's name is mud among sections of the professional golfers and coaching fraternity. His crime? He opened up the confessional that is the player-coach relationship, one based to a large extent on confidentiality, in writing the best-seller 'The Big Miss' (Crown Archetype) -- the inside story of his six years as coach to Tiger Woods.

To his publishers, the golfing public and anyone remotely interested in the phenomenon that is Woods, Haney is a god-send.

This is a narrative that covers a crucial period of Tiger's career, one in which he won six Majors on Haney's watch, and, of course, had his world blown apart by the exposure of his multiple infidelities while married to Elin Nordegren.

The scandals shocked the world, but to know someone, you have to live with them, and Haney spent plenty of time in Tiger's company over a six-year period.

The first question that arose for me was: why? Why write the book? Why put yourself into the firing line by doing a warts-and-all expose of a client? Haney says it's about witnessing greatness. And there's no doubt Tiger Woods is and has been a great golfer, and more.


However, Haney has another agenda, and one with which I don't disagree: he took lots of criticism before the fall of Tiger's reputation, even when Woods was winning.

This was his chance to put his side of the story, to set the record straight.

'Experts' dissected and criticised his methods and the progress of the work he was doing with Tiger, forgetting that Butch Harmon had been working, mostly away from the glare of publicity, with Woods since 1993.

Haney knew Tiger for years before they hooked up at Tiger's request, because Woods was friendly with Mark O'Meara, who Haney coached.

When he began working with Woods, something became apparent to Haney: Tiger had a fear factor about his driving, something which he has never fully eliminated.

Haney does reveal stuff that the notoriously private Tiger clearly hates being publicised.

Among them was that Haney earned only $50,000 a year for working with one of the world's richest sportsmen, and a $25,000 bonus for a Major win.

That was for 100 days a year in direct interaction with Tiger, and another 100 texting or working on stuff related to him.

Woods comes across as supremely selfish, tight-fisted, and a man around whom his camp would tread warily lest they get the cold shoulder.

His obsession with the US military increased after his father, Earl, died in 2006 and he went on training courses with the elite Navy Seals. Indeed he was strongly considering giving up golf to join the Seals.

In his 'wish list' Haney writes: "I wish Tiger's game during his time with me hadn't always been compared to his game in 2000, but rather to his game in '03 and '04, the period just before I started.

"I wish Tiger had been less reckless in partaking in workout regimens and military training activities that further damaged his knee.

"I wish Tiger had been more open to a lower-maintenance coaching relationship in which he essentially monitored himself and just called me when he needed me.

"I wish Tiger had come back from rehab a different person. Not a lot different, just a little warmer and open. It could have started with something as simple as offering me a popsicle. I realise now that as hard as I tried to understand Tiger, he tried just as hard not to let me."

The mental strength that helped him limp his way through the 2008 US Open with serious leg injuries underlines Woods' strength of character on the course; in other aspects, such as his philandering, he showed the shadowy side of his nature.

Haney wrote what he saw, and didn't know about the affairs.

There is something for everyone in the book.

Golf coaches and aficionados will be interested in the technical aspects and why they were carried out; students of sporting excellence get a glimpse into the workings of one of the finest golfers ever to grace the game; and the 'gossipati', to coin a phrase, will be intrigued by the nuances of Tiger's character that are revealed.

Through it all we must remember that Tiger Woods is box-office and will be until he retires from golf.

Haney's book is another setback in Woods' view, but it reads as a fair and honest account of a man privileged to be inside Tiger's inner circle.

It won't damage Tiger. He's done enough of that by himself to himself.

It does, however, show him as a human being with some good and some bad in him, just like the rest of humanity. And maybe that's not a bad thing.

Irish Independent

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