PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The collateral damage absorbed in the Tiger Woods camp over the arc of his off-the-course scandal has been considerable, with various employees and confidants being dragged into the mix over the past six months. On Wednesday, a new name was officially tossed into the conversational blender.
NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller, speaking in a national teleconference to promote this week's broadcast of the Players Championship, said that Woods' work over the past six years with swing coach Hank Haney is no longer passing muster and that the world No. 1 should start over from scratch.
Anytime Miller begins a sentence with a qualifier that indicates what follows might be interpreted as brash, you can bet he has a bullet in the chamber that he's about to fire -- and that somebody better duck.
"It might be a little harsh, but I really believe he needs to, every night, watch the U.S. Open in the year 2000 at Pebble and just copy that swing and forget the Haney stuff," Miller said. "I mean, that was the best golf anybody has ever played in history.
"That's something he can copy, the tempo, the position at the top of the backswing, the follow-through position ... His tempo was much better then and he should literally say, 'I am turning back the clock and I am not going to think of anything and I can remember what I was working on then.'
"He needs a new, fresh, either teacher or just go back to what is natural to his game. What he is working on now, I believe is, no disrespect for Hank Haney, but it is not working. And sometimes when it is not working, sometimes you have to get off the fork in the road and get back to what brung you there and what won all these championships for him.
"He needs to do that and if he was here right now I would tell it right to his face."
We're guessing Woods and Haney will get wind of the comments regardless. Woods, working with Butch Harmon at the time, won the 2000 Open by 15 shots in what has roundly been called the greatest week-long performance of the modern era.
Haney, who tends to bristle when criticism of Woods' results is tossed about, will have a point if he objects to the Miller characterization that Woods' game has suffered. Last year, Woods posted the third-lowest scoring average of his career at 68.05 shots, despite coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Woods won six times last year worldwide.
Say what you want about Haney's swing teachings, but it seems premature to pin Woods' current struggles on the coach when Woods had played four live rounds in five-plus months before he missed the cut last week in Charlotte, N.C. Haney's not the reason that Woods took 144 days off between tournaments, or that his mental state is as fragile as a robin's egg and his game isn't much stronger.
Miller particularly noted that Woods' inability to put the ball in the fairway represents a huge hole in his arsenal.
"I have to believe he is a little rusty," said Miller, a Hall of Famer. "If you want to have a tough time, Tiger, before, hit a lot of balls to the right. When you get on a tee and you look left and that's not good and you look right and that's not good, it's like panic goes on.
"There's no clue [with Woods] as to where it's going. Then you top it off with the personal stuff and I don't think any of us can comprehend what he's battling there. I don't know the ins of what's going on but there is a lot of turmoil and you add that with a bad driver and it's quite a 1-2 punch.
"Most everybody in the golfing world wanted to be Tiger Woods not too long ago and now they are not sure. He's going through a tough time. To have the David Duval-type syndrome where your driver just leaves you, boy, that's a lonely place to be even if your home life is good."
Even for those us us who have been tough on Woods, that's a particularly rough appraisal.
Fellow analyst Gary Koch noted a red flag when Woods hockey-slapped at putts in his final round at both the Masters and Quail Hollow, an uncharacteristically reckless move that underscored apparent issues with concentration.
"I don't think it is anywhere near what it was before all this stuff happened," Koch said. "When was the last time you saw him halfway hit putts where he really didn't care if they went in or not? To me, that shows a mind that is not settled, not at ease and not at peace and out of his normal routine of how he goes about things."