2004: Newsmakers - Woods-Haney ‘work’ heats up in Texas

Irving, Texas

Tiger Woods has spent a lot of time with Hank Haney the last couple of months while working on swing changes, but he labels the Texas-based instructor as his “friend,” not his new teacher.

Haney has been the instructor of Mark O’Meara, Woods’ close friend and Florida neighbor, for 23 years. But he has increasingly spent more time checking out Woods’ swing this spring. Haney spent three days on the range in Florida with Woods the week of The Players Championship and worked with him the week before the Masters and Wachovia tournaments.

Haney and Woods reunited at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. On May 11, Haney walked a Tuesday practice round with Woods and O’Meara, then played nine holes and worked on the range with them afterward at nearby Vaquero, a private club of which Haney is a member.

“I asked Hank one question about my takeaway, where it was, and that was it,” Woods said of their Tuesday round.

Haney and Woods, who are said to talk on a regular basis, also went to Vaquero after the second round and played some holes along with Woods’ fiancee, Elin Nordegren.

“He’s always been a friend ever since college golf” when Haney was the Southern Methodist University coach, Woods said. “It’s always nice to be able to pick someone’s brain about the golf swing, and Hank has always been that since college for me.

“(Instructors) try to accomplish the same thing in a different way of wording it, and it was nice to hear something that Hank said about my golf swing. Some of the stuff I throw out, some of the stuff I’ll try. It either works or I’ll throw it out later.”

Woods said he’ll “bounce things off” Haney.

“We’re always asking questions,” Woods said. “Whether we actually go ahead and use it is a different story. Even when I was working with (former coach) Butch (Harmon), 90 percent of the things I hear, I’ll throw out.”

Haney did not want to comment about the swing changes or his relationship with Woods, other than to call him a “friend” and add, “I’ve worked with over 200 players on the pro tours, and he’s by far the most knowledgeable about the golf swing. And I’ll bet he’ll figure it out.”

Woods has struggled with driving accuracy for more than a year, but he has said for months he is “close” to getting his swing in a good groove. One problem has been that he gets the club behind him and “gets stuck,” a position that leads to a flip hook or a block. After the Nelson third round, he said, “I’m just a few swings away.”

Before the past two weeks, Woods had won 20 of the 24 tournaments in which he had led or shared the lead after 36 holes. But he didn’t convert midway leads at both the Wachovia and Byron Nelson tournaments, finishing one stroke out of playoffs in both.

At the Nelson, Woods shot 9-under-par 65-67-70-69–271 despite hitting only 41 percent of the fairways (tied for 74th), fewer than he had at Wachovia (42.9 percent). He hit only three of 14 fairways in the final round. But, as he has all year except for the Masters, Woods putted superbly. He tied for seventh in putts per round and was fifth in total distance of putts made.

“It was frustrating I wasn’t able to hit the fairway, but on top of that I hit good shots that were landing in the fairway and were running into the rough,” Woods said of the final round. “I hit four shots that did that.”

As for whether his game is near where he wants it, Woods sounded a familar refrain.

“It is close,” he said. “I show signs of it, and then if I would just get a little bit more consistent with some shots, I would have been all right.”

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