It strikes me that there’s too much noise right now in golf, supposedly the quiet game. There’s the wrong kind of Tigermania, hysteria surrounding Hank Haney’s resignation as coach, grassy-knoll theories about their split, wild assertions on why Woods hasn’t played well lately, screaming from hither and yon.
Pass the aspirin. And imagine how Woods and Haney feel.
Beneath the din, we have this: Now that we know what we know, it doesn’t take a doctor to understand Woods’ erratic play of late. Simply, he’s hurt – physically (neck) and emotionally (sex-scandal fallout). Once he heals his spine and clears his head, you can expect him to play the kind of golf to which we’ve been accustomed.
Woods’ condition is the central point to this drama. We’ve seen him win with four different swings and one frame of mind. Now we’re seeing a different head and might see a fifth swing. My sense is that Woods will figure it out as usual, health willing.
The Woods-Haney split is a sidebar about which too much is being made. Sure, instructors help golfers, particularly in early stages of development. Both Butch Harmon and Haney have been fine stewards for Woods. But in general, the coach influence is overrated, particularly as applied to a refined product such as Woods.
I mean, you don’t think Tiger Woods, most dominant golfer ever, knows what he’s doing on a golf course?
Try this exercise: Can you name me one batting coach in Major League Baseball? A passing coach in the NFL? Ben Hogan’s instructor? Who taught Wayne Gretzky a slap shot? Larry Bird a jump shot?
Haney will be fine. He was rich and famous and highly regarded before he began working with Woods six years ago. He’s more rich and famous now and highly regarded now.
Certainly he’ll be at more peace. It seems he got blamed every time Woods missed a fairway in recent years. Overreaction dogged him. He has been a convenient excuse for pundits. And who’s to say Woods hasn’t liked the fact Haney’s mere involvement has taken heat off the world’s No. 1 golfer? Haney has been blamed for just about everything but Woods’ sordid personal life.
You might not agree with how Woods swings a driver and you might have a different view about proper mechanics, but Haney can leave proudly. Woods won 51 percent of his PGA Tour starts from July 2006 through last year. His top-10 percentage also was higher than at any point during his career.
“People have texted me saying I must feel relief,” Haney said Tuesday. “Others have texted me saying they are sorry. What’s there to be sorry about? I feel great. I’m appreciative of the incredible opportunity and feel great. I learned a lot and had great experiences. One thing for sure is, Tiger and I will be friends.”
Why is he leaving?
“It was just time to move on,” Haney said. “There’s not one thing. There are many reasons that add up to it being time to move on. It’s a decision I didn’t just come to (Monday) night. You wonder if you’ll have regrets and, ‘Should I do this?’ But I feel great today.”
Despite suspicions otherwise, for several reasons I believe the split Monday was Haney’s call. For one, earlier in the day Woods had talked about his plans to sort the swing out with Haney.
“I know it’s his decision to resign,” said one Tour player who knows Haney well. “I think he just had enough of the whole circus. Hank got tired of all the speculation.”
Haney says the criticism about his swing ideas doesn’t bother him because that comes with the territory. “If you have no critics, you have no successes,” he said. “What bothers me is the ignoring or distorting of the facts.”
Two assumptions often are made when a professional golfer is off kilter. One, the teacher is saying the wrong things. Two, the student is listening. Tour players aren’t beginning golfers. At that level, it’s safe to say top teachers try to lead a player in a certain direction and hope he finds his own way.
In time, Woods will find a new set of eyes to watch over him. That person will become richer and more famous than before. And much more talked about. Thick skin is a job requirement. Earplugs are important, too. It can get loud out there.
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.