Haney’s book on Tiger

Posted: August 20, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
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Before this goes any further I should say I remain convinced Tiger Woods will one day tie and then break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles. Armchair psychologists are welcome to diagnose me based on these possible delusions, though your arguments against that belief will not sway me. How could they — as the only person still left on that bandwagon (does Tiger even think it anymore?) I’ve already heard them all. I will simply say Tiger is still on Jack’s pace. Nicklaus won his 15th at the British Open when he was 38 years old. At next year’s British Tiger will be 38. If he doesn’t win that? Then I search for more rationalizations.

Still…I can see why some might remain doubtful about Tiger’s chances. But no matter your feelings about the ultimate pursuit in his career — and no matter if you let out a cheer when he hits a great drive or applaud when he pushes a 5-foot par putt — Hank Haney’s 2012 book The Big Miss provides something for everyone.

Those who are tired of Tiger’s winning or his swearing or can’t forgive his philandering with more than a hundred women who weren’t his wife will enjoy Haney’s critiques and assessments about his future, including his belief that if Tiger didn’t win a major in 2012 he would never break Jack’s mark. He didn’t win in 2012, of course, and followed with a winless 2013. Those who never get tired of Tiger’s winning and don’t really care about his philandering will also enjoy the book, as Haney — Tiger’s coach from 2004 until their breakup in 2010 — writes that no one ever played golf as well as Tiger, including Nicklaus. He provides a behind-the-scenes look at the practice sessions that made Tiger great and examines what it took for Woods to win six majors while working with Haney.

I didn’t buy the book when it came out last year and only read it this month. At first I wondered if it’d be simply a rip job by Haney but it’s anything but that, although he certainly gets plenty of payback for whatever sins Tiger committed against him. The book is, at times, extremely critical of Tiger but Haney also has tremendous respect for his talent and appreciation for what he accomplished under Haney’s watch. Tiger had every right to be bothered by Haney revealing so much but I also don’t think Haney was somehow under some lifetime gag order, simply because Tiger no longer paid him his below-average salary (Tiger’s cheap, a lesson from the book). Haney’s book is no different than Phil Jackson’s various tomes, all of which involved the Zen Master revealing intimate details about his players and strategies. As far as post-scandal books, I didn’t like The Big Miss as much as Alan Shipnuck and Michael Bamberger’s The Swinger, a fictionalized version of the events. In the book the character is Tree Tremont and it includes a graphic scene involving a Master’s Green Jacket as a sex prop. Haney’s book doesn’t include those types of details. But here, some highlights:

THE POPSICLE INCIDENT
Of the sad stories in the book — the end of a marriage; the death of Earl Woods; the decline of a legendary career; the end of Haney’s own marriage — nothing is as as upsetting as Haney detailing Tiger’s hesitance in giving him a tasty frozen treat. He mentions it twice so you know it stuck with him. Tiger always had a popsicle after dinner and Haney always wanted one. Tiger never offered. “One night I really wanted one of those popsicles. But I found myself sitting, kind of frozen, not knowing what to do next.” Too frightened to go to the fridge, he finally asked for one. Tiger said yes, “but even after that, Tiger never offered me a popsicle.”

IAN POULTER TAKES FLIGHT
All of America hated Ian Poulter during the 2012 Ryder Cup but also admired his clutch putting. At one point Tiger had the same feelings, but only the first part of that sentence. Tiger occasionally gave guys rides home on his private plane but at a tourney in 2007 Poulter didn’t even ask, simply said, “How are we getting home?” Tiger gave a “noncommittal answer.” Poulter showed up and hopped aboard. As Haney chatted with Poulter on the flight, Tiger texted his coach: “Can you believe how this dick mooched a ride on my plane?” We’ve all been there.

ONLINE THRASHINGS
It’s painful enough for normal citizens to read comments on newspaper websites or YouTube or TMZ or Yahoo. Now think about the subjects of those articles reading those inane/racist/poorly spelled/hateful/bizarre comments. Now imagine Tiger Woods reading those comments at the height of his “wait, how many women did he sleep with” scandal. Hard to believe, but Haney says he did just that, reading not just the hundreds of stories but all the comments below them. He also actually enjoyed when South Park made fun of him, proving again that everyone loves South Park.

NAVY SEALS
Haney believes that if Tiger doesn’t catch Nicklaus, his military obsession could be to blame. I didn’t realize just how crazy he’d gotten with his love of the Navy SEALS until reading this. Not only did he likely injure his leg during training — whether he got shot with a rubber bullet or kicked in the knee — but at one point in time he seriously considered giving up golf to join the SEALS. Huh? In the same way Michael Jordan’s baseball obsession had something to do with the fact his late father loved the game, so Tiger’s obsession could be traced back to his dad’s military career. It could have worked out nicely for the video game industry, as someone could have combined Tiger’s game with Call of Duty. Play 18 at Pebble…and then invade August! Some weird military guy even started hanging out with Tiger, freaking out Steve. Tiger parachuted, went on mock raids and fired assault rifles. He even inquired about the SEALS making an age exception for him to join. Hey, did Nicklaus ever do that?

SILENT TREATMENT
Tiger could be an odd dude. He seemingly had contests with himself to see how long he could go without talking to Haney or Steve Williams. One time Williams had a silent contest with Tiger, trying to see if he could stay quiet until Tiger finally spoke. Williams broke down on the range after 20 minutes.

HANEY RESIGNATION BECOMES SOMETHING OUT OF SEINFELD
When Haney finally pulled the plug in 2010, Tiger didn’t accept it. Haney sent a text with the resignation. Tiger’s reply? “Thanks, Hank. But we’re still going to work together.”

“No we’re not,” Haney replied. “It’s finished. Done. Over. I’m no longer your coach.”

“We’ll talk in the morning.”

They were, in fact, finished. Then Hank wrote a book.

SEX LIFE
The sleaziest part of the book comes when Haney reveals some talks he had with Tiger about his affairs. Tiger told Haney, “There are some girls who are going to be after me even more now, especially the wild ones. But what I learned is that for the rest of my life I can’t have sex with someone unless I genuinely feel something for them. If I do, I’m putting myself in jeopardy.” It’s not like he broke patient-doctor confidentiality but this goes beyond the coaching insights and other analysis Haney offers. Haney was going through his own divorce while coaching Tiger but, shockingly, does not offer insight into his own sexual issues. Could have done without Tiger’s too.

HOGAN’S A SORT-OF HERO
Haney writes, “Ben Hogan was probably the only player whose whole swing Tiger admired.” Tiger loved watching videos of the old players, especially Hogan. “But Tiger wasn’t in awe of Hogan,” and Tiger even mentioned that shots Hogan used back during his time would never work today. Haney also notes how Tiger called Hogan “Ben” and Nicklaus “Jack.” Many players use Mr. for the old legends. Apparently, among some people, this is another sign of Tiger being disrespectful. No, really. Apparently Kobe should say “Mr. Jordan” when talking about Air. But, Haney writes, “I thought he was just being honest. He knew he’d earned his way into that club.”

PUTTING HEADACHES
Tiger’s certainly not the putter he once was but Haney notes how even a decade ago when Tiger did lose it was often because of his work on the greens. Specifically, his inability to avoid three-putts. If Tiger managed not to three-putt for an entire tournament, Williams discovered his man won 85 percent of the time. Haney did his best to convey that to Tiger, but the biggest difficulty was convincing him that he didn’t have to try and make lengthy putts, the ones from 20 feet. Tiger got in trouble by blowing those past and missing them coming back for par. That has cropped up in Tiger’s recent major failures but it’s been around for a long time. Haney believes it cost him the 2005 U.S. Open and 2005 PGA, and hurt him at various Masters since his 2005 title.

THE SWING’S THE THING
The book has a lot of gossip but mostly it’s valuable because of the great insight Haney gives into Tiger’s swing. He writes about why Tiger would alter his 2000 swing, when he put together the greatest season in golf history. It’s about never being satisfied and always wanting a challenge. Butch Harmon wanted Tiger to simply maintain his swing while Tiger was always looking to make changes. People who have more knowledge of golf will enjoy the technical talk even more than I did, as Haney discusses head, shoulders, grips, backswing and everything else involved with Tiger’s swing. When an angry Tiger would demand to know on the range what was going wrong — he worded it in a strange way, saying, “Hank, tell me why I’m hitting it like Shawn Fury” — Haney says he had 30 seconds to figure it out. Think about the pressure. This isn’t working with Charles Barkley or Michael Phelps on a reality show, where the changes are so obvious and the stakes meaningless. This was, at worst, the second-best player in history asking for an answer and wanting it immediately.

One drill Haney had Tiger do was the nine shots. At one point Johnny Miller wanders over to Tiger on the range and sees him doing the drill. “Miller was particularly complimentary of Tiger’s Nine Shots, saying that he used to do the same thing and would try to go 9-for-9. ‘I didn’t do it that often,’ Miller said. “I know Tiger was thinking, I do it all the time, but he didn’t say anything.”

2008 OPEN: TRIUMPH AND…
Haney spends a lot of time on the 2008 U.S. Open, which Tiger won in a playoff over Rocco Mediate, all while battling a torn ACL and leg fractures. Haney calls it Tiger’s greatest moment, but also believes his career was never the same after it. Tiger overcame so much to win, Haney believes he struggled to find motivation after it. If he gets close to Nicklaus’ 18, then he again might be able to find something that presents him with a similar challenge. More importantly, Tiger simply wasn’t the same physically after that tournament, something that will linger forever. Interestingly, Haney wishes Tiger had delayed his initial surgery to clean out cartilage, which took place after The Masters. That resulting surgery led to the fractures, meaning Tiger had to quit the 2008 season after the Open, a season that had him winning four of his six tourneys. Delaying the post-Masters surgery would have meant playing in pain in the final three majors but Haney believes Tiger could have won all of them, even while hobbling around. Instead Tiger put everything he had into winning the Open — and it took everything out of him.

***

This Sunday I’m attending the final round of The Barclays in Jersey City, the first event of the Fed Ex Playoffs, a postseason event that somehow manages to have the gravitas of the NFL preseason. It’s ultimately meaningless but still has the top players in each event. They’re still playing for big money, Tiger’s still chasing Sam Snead. I’ve decided to follow Tiger around for all 18 holes, assuming he’s still playing Sunday. If he plays early in the day I’ll watch him and then camp out at a green when he’s done. If he plays late I’ll camp out at a green or tee box and then follow him. I’ll always be able to go to golf tourneys but there’s a decent chance I’ll never again have the opportunity to follow Tiger for 18 holes. It’s an opportunity I can’t pass up.

And thanks to Haney’s book, I’ll have a better understanding of who I’m watching and what he’s doing, a genius on the course, hardly flawless but always fascinating.

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