Hank Haney’s “The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods”
New York: Crown Archetype, 2012
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The relationship between a golfer and swing coach is frighteningly akin to that of patient and psychiatrist. In both cases, the help-seeker is entrusting a most valued set of behaviors to a professional outsider. You let the expert know things you are too embarrassed to let yourself think about out loud, let alone reveal to anyone else. The exchange is entirely one-sided; you get advice you don’t want to hear about fixing things that are absolutely crucial to your well being.
In medicine, there’s a legally established principle of confidentially that survives the therapeutic relationship. Not so on the driving range, as Tiger Woods now knows.
Maybe Hank Haney would have been less willing to open the office door on his relationship with Woods from 2004 to 2010 had he been dealt with more graciously. Apparently, Woods thinks that the privilege of being witness to his greatness warrants dismissive treatment and low pay. His notorious reluctance to part with money led him to offer Haney only $50,000 a year (plus $25,000 bonus for major championships) for a relationship that required about 100 days a year on the road plus constant availability for phone calls.
It was an unequal relationship, with Haney playing the house guest and take-out dinner “go-fer.” Behind the scenes, Woods is void of complex give and take. Conversations were limited to sports, the occasional TV show and casual banter.
“There was never any substantive life conversations between us,” says Haney on page 77 of the book, set to be released on March 27.
And though Haney acknowledges many people might doubt him, he makes a convincing case that the matter of Woods’ philandering came as a surprise to him.
At the practice range, Haney had to pick his moments carefully in offering instruction that would mesh with Woods’ intensely defended sense of self. Woods suffered a perpetual swing problem, says Haney, of hanging his head back and dropping it at impact, which led him to hold on too long and block the ball – or overcompensate with his fast-turning lower body. Among the book’s many revelations is Haney’s sense that Woods’ greatest weakness as a golfer is his fear of mis-hitting the driver – thus the title of the book.
“I can now admit,” says Haney, “I never felt totally comfortable when Tiger was standing over a drive in competition.”
Even more revealing than the swing material is evidence of Woods’ emotional blank wall: his indifference to people around him, his inability to empathize, and an obsession with military training and the Navy SEALs that, according to Haney, probably led to the leg injuries which have hampered Woods’ golf career.
How much of this is Haney’s insight and how much of this is due to his writing collaborator, Jaime Diaz, can be only a matter of speculation. The result makes for an alarming look at an athlete whose public glories masked a day-to-day existence of profound superficiality.