ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods’ fascination with the Navy SEALs and how he might have incurred his leg injuries are sure to generate plenty of buzz when Hank Haney’s book goes on sale next week.
There also is plenty of gossip involving other players, such as the time Ian Poulter invited himself to ride home on Woods’ plane after a practice round at Oakmont.
But there is a bigger picture in “The Big Miss,” which chronicles the six years Haney spent as Woods’ swing coach.
Haney shows Woods to be a complicated person who sought change to keep stimulated, who rarely was satisfied, was self-centered in his pursuit of greatness and whose work ethic in the gym was geared toward being accepted as an athlete.
“In Tiger’s mind, satisfaction is the enemy of success,” Haney writes.
The book goes on sale March 27 — one week before the Masters — and it already has been getting plenty of attention because of a few sections that raise questions about how Woods injured his leg.
Haney cites Corey Carroll, one of Woods’ closest friends at Isleworth, the upscale country-club community near Orlando where Woods lived, as saying that Woods injured his right Achilles tendon doing Olympic-style weightlifting as he returned from reconstructive knee surgery in December 2008.
Haney also tells of a woman who approached him during an outing in Minnesota last year. Her husband was a Navy SEAL in California and told her that Woods came in for training in 2007 at a “kill house” — an urban-warfare simulator — and “got kicked pretty hard in the leg, and I think he hurt his knee pretty bad.”
Haney said that matched a story from Carroll, who said Woods revealed to him that the complete tear of his left knee ligaments really happened in a kill house when he had lost his balance and been kicked in the knee.
“My immediate thought upon hearing Corey’s account, which so closely paralleled that of the woman in Minneapolis, was that it was true,” Haney writes. “And if so, it meant that if Tiger never catches Jack Nicklaus, it will very likely have as much to do with the time and physical capacity he lost as a result of his bizarre Navy SEALs adventure as anything else.”
The injuries are relevant because Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee, and he withdrew from his last tournament two weeks ago at Doral with tightness in his left Achilles tendon. That’s the same one that caused him to miss two majors last year.
Woods said it was only a mild strain, and with a two-day Tavistock Cup exhibition followed by the Tour event at Bay Hill, he is scheduled to play seven straight days this week.
Though the injuries are timely, the rest of the book is sure to satisfy the curiosity of golf fans — particularly those who have watched him win at a record rate — to whom Woods has revealed so little over the years.
Haney became increasingly concerned when Woods began workouts designed to build muscle. It reached a point when Haney and former trainer Keith Kleven tried to convince Woods that he was getting more muscular in the upper body than was helpful for golf.
Woods so badly wanted to be considered a real athlete that he saw injuries as a badge of honor. Haney said Woods tried to empathize with Derek Jeter and Shaquille O’Neal when talking about injuries.
Haney does not consider the book a “tell-all,” and much of it reveals Woods’ pursuit of his place in history. He also delves into the relationship Woods had with his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, and how guarded they were in public.
That runs against Haney’s comments in January that the book would be about golf, though he thought it was relevant.
“I think when you’re such a complex person, an absolute superstar, you can’t ignore everything that happens off the golf course,” Haney said in an interview. “The performance, the dedication, the ability to compete with a clear mind. To me, it said something about Tiger overall as a person. Clearly, there’s a lot of things I left out of the book that didn’t have to do with golf.”
He said Woods ignored phone calls when they started working together, but later began returning text messages. Haney said he was not aware of Woods’ extramarital affairs, except for Woods making the occasional comment about a woman whom he saw in the gallery. He also wrote that Woods told him that his ex-wife wanted him to take two years away from golf after his serial adultery was exposed.
“One of my goals in the book was to paint a picture and let people decide what they want to glean from it,” he said.
Haney said he felt as though he had won the lottery when Woods called him in 2004 and asked him to be his swing coach. He was paid $50,000 a year, plus a $25,000 bonus for Woods winning a major.
Haney said they had to confront three issues in revamping the swing: protecting the left knee (Woods told him that his anterior cruciate ligament was only 20 percent intact after surgery in 2002), the movement of his head and learning to hit the driver.
“Simply put, Tiger played the driver with a lot of fear,” Haney wrote.
He said their second lesson was his first test as a coach. Woods had finished 10 shots behind at Bay Hill, and Haney met him on the range at Isleworth. Haney said Woods ignored him.
“The message Tiger wanted to send was clear: “When I play bad, when I don’t win, it’s your fault.” He was reminding me that his expectations were going to be incredibly high …,” Haney wrote.
“…. I also realized that I was never going to be able to relax with Tiger Woods,” he wrote. “He was going to be complicated, and he was going to surprise me with his moods.”
Haney expects to be criticized for trying to make money off his six years coaching Woods, especially with the book going on sale a week before the Masters. He has said on Twitter in recent months that the memories do not solely belong to Woods.
“I wanted to write the book about my observations of greatness, an athlete superior to his competition,” Haney said. “Obviously, people will have their thoughts. But when people read the book in its entirety … if Tiger read the book, in his heart, he’d have to say it’s an accurate portrayal, and it’s honest.”
Perhaps a more accurate assessment is something Haney wrote late in the 247-page book.
“My guess is that the publication of this book won’t bring us closer.”