Blog Entry

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Posted on: March 1, 2011 4:50 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- You are not alone.

Like most everybody, even some prominent former members of the Tiger Woods camp are perplexed about the state of the fallen world No. 1's game.

If not about its direction.

In fact, Hank Haney, Woods' swing coach for six dominant years, is posing the same queries that the rest of us are asking. A sampling of quick-n-easy ones spring to mind.

Where is he and why isn't he playing? What's the deal with the swing changes? What's taking so long to post decent results?

They sound all-too familiar.

"It's hard to micro-analyze golf," Haney said. "You can’t make too much of match play last week because it's one round and Torrey Pines was one tournament. I don't know if there has been enough of a sample size. Maybe he just needs to play more."

But, of course, he hasn’t.

It's already March, yet Woods has logged nine live rounds as the tour heads to the Honda Classic and kicks off the Florida Swing, the traditional gateway to the Masters, which begins April 7.

Sure, empires have been built in five weeks. Empires have crumbled in the same span. Haney, watching from afar like the rest of us after severing ties with Woods last May, is scratching his head just as often, too, as Woods sends forth obtuse messages that have caused more confusion than clarity. He is expected to play this month at Doral and Bay Hill, where he can log eight more rounds before the Masters.

Like others, Haney doesn’t understand why Woods keeps explaining that he needs more time and repetitions, yet hasn’t added any stars. After getting bounced in the first round of the Accenture Match Play last week, Woods didn’t play this week, citing unspecified commitments. He's never played at Tampa's Transitions Championship, either, and rarely deviates from his list of annual tournament favorites.

Thus, as time keeps ticking away, so does his stature on the global pegboard. Woods this week dropped to fifth in the world ranking, his lowest position since the week before he won the 1997 Masters, the first of his 14 major championship titles.

If you think his new swing looks foreign, so does his movement in the ranking -- backwards.

Two weeks ago, after reading reports that longtime confidant John Cook said that Woods had suddenly solved his offseason swing issues, Haney recalled a similar moment in their time together and predicted that Woods would win. Then he watched as Woods washed out in the Tucson desert, losing in 19 holes to underdog Thomas Bjorn.

"I get confused when I listen to everything, because everything seems contradictory," Haney said. "He says he needs more reps, but he doesn’t play any more? John Cook said he doesn’t really need to hit a lot of balls anymore, he just needs to play. But I thought he just needed more reps? More reps, but you don’t need to practice? What is it?"

What it isn't is pretty. Woods hasn't posted a win on the PGA Tour in 17 months and hasn’t mustered an official top 10 on American soil since the U.S. Open last June. He again skipped the Honda, played two hours from his Orlando home. If there's one thing we have learned over the course of Woods' 15 years as a pro, is that he views stubbornness as an attribute.  He's not going to add tournaments just because nearly everybody thinks that's what is best.

Note that we said nearly. Lee Westwood, who supplanted Woods as world No. 1 exactly 18 weeks ago, said playing more often might not work to Woods'  advantage at the moment. Westwood ought to know, having endured a slump several years ago in which he dropped out of the top 200.

"When I went through my bad patch, it was a juggling act to stay at home and practice and work on your game, or go out and play and risk maybe not playing well and taking another confidence knock," said Westwood, now No. 2 in the rankings. "It's very much, in situations like that, up to the individual.

"So Tiger has to do what he feels is right and not what everybody else feels is right, not what suits everybody else."

Forget suits, we might need straitjackets. Moreover, Woods himself might not know what's best at the moment. Given their time together, Haney wonders why it's taking so long for Woods to play at a level close to where he performed previously.

"The notion that it should take time, or should take a lot of time, I don’t really buy into the theory," said Haney, also a former analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports. "Once again, it's been contradictory. I thought things were coming along faster."

Who didn’t? Woods finished fourth against a thin field at the Australian Masters and was second in the short-field Chevron World Challenge last fall, but has been struggling to string together two good rounds since. Along the way, Woods pointed out that it took two years for swing changes ingrained under Butch Harmon to take hold, and 1 1/2 years for his work with Haney to congeal.

Not exactly true, Haney said. The longest that Woods went without recording a PGA Tour top 10 in their time together, which began during the Florida Swing in 2004, was three weeks -- their first three starts as teacher and client.

"That's what he says, but that's not what the record says," Haney said. "Maybe he is referring to how long it took to be confident or comfortable. There is no telling."

Woods is clearly grinding to find a sustainable rhythm on the course, if not some old magic. He took a half-dozen practice swings with a 3-wood on his extra hole against Bjorn last week at match play, then hit his tee shot so far into the desert, it took an aerial shot from the blimp to find it.

Interestingly, new swing coach Sean Foley's other high-profile clients, including Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan, aren't implementing the same moves into their swings and have shown improvement over the past couple of years. Woods, still in an awkward stage, looks like a high-dollar guinea pig of sorts.
"It does look different from them, definitely," Haney said. "Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan have very good-looking, classic swings. Tiger looks like he is trying to do something totally different from what they are doing, so it's confusing.

"Maybe it just needs more time. Not to defend myself, but I started in the middle of the year. He had a whole offseason here. Tiger never lost at Torrey Pines when I was helping him, so I was surprised he didn’t come out of the gate stronger, with a whole offseason to practice and being on arguably his favorite or most successful course. But it's just one tournament."

To be fair, unlike with Foley, Haney never had to deal with any of the residual blowback from Woods' personal issues, the impact of which can't possibly be measured by anyone not named Eldrick Tont Woods.

No longer in the Woods inner sanctum, Haney has kept pretty busy since he initiated the breakup  last May. The final episode of this season's Haney Project on the Golf Channel, with Rush Limbaugh as the high-profile pupil, is airing this week.

"He turned out to be a great student," Haney said of the talk-radio star. "For as big a talker as he is, he's a better listener. He is a great, great listener."

It's unclear what messages Woods is receiving, much less choosing to hear or ignore. Haney made it clear that he is pulling for his former pupil to get his act together and confident that it will happen eventually. It's the vague, eventual part that has Haney's eyebrows raised, just like the rest of us.

"Of course I want to see him do well, I want to see him figure it out," Haney said. "He is great for golf, and golf was better when he was playing great. He is somebody who has so much talent, it's hard to imagine him not playing good.

"I am sure he will right the ship -- he's just too good," Haney said. "Every time I watch him and he doesn’t win, it surprises me."

Talk about a paradox.

It's been 16 months since Woods' spiral first began. These days, the shock and awe, even on the course, no longer are reserved for when Woods is winning.

Category: Golf

Since: Jul 24, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2011 10:20 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Finally, someone has got it figured out. Great post.

Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2011 9:37 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Until his $1,000,000 teacher (Sean Foley) can figure out that... when you lift your left shoulder up and out through the downswing... Tiger ain't goin anywhere but backwards and FAST! Tiger being on top is, whether folks like it or not, HUGE for the game of Golf as he is the the automatic draw to people that don;t even play or care about golf! In the meantime... everytim I see that up and out move with the left shoulder... I'm truly LMAO!!!!

Since: Mar 11, 2007
Posted on: March 2, 2011 9:28 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

LOL it is very simple he is having women problems! He needs to get him some p u ss y and when that happens he will be back good as new!!!!  That is all it is!!  His mind is not letting him play good golf.

Since: Aug 18, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2011 9:23 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Tiger's time is done.  It's been done.  He caught the golf world by surprise with new technology and a harsh attitude.  But now, let's face it.  It's not like he won every tournament he entered although these media people try to make it sound like it and that the guy could never be beat.  It took a little while for these guys to catch up to him as it used to be a "gentleman's game" and now ferocity and emotion are the rule of the day (even though shhhhhhhhhh is still heard prior to all the IN THE HOLE!!!!!! screams).  Whatever it was that Tiger had - whether superior trainer, natural talent, steroids (as was eluded to by other golfers but never ever proven), or a deal with the devil (I'm personally betting on that one) - it's now over as far as the edge he had.  Yeah he may still be successful for a little bit like a normal golfer and the media may still wet their panties anytime he wins and proclaim "he's back!" but no, he's done as far as what he used to be.  The pack has caught up, a younger generation is playing, technology is widespread.  And Tiger will fall further down the rankings.  It's the Circle of Golf Life.  LOL

Since: Jul 8, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2011 9:20 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Every weekend hacker out there knows golf is game played between the ears.If your heads not in it,YOU`RE not in it.And to play at the PGA level,your head better be in it.Plain and simple,Tiger`s is not,and of course,we don`t need to go into the reason why.At the very least,just imagine having your kids literally dissapear from your life in the blink of an eye.Yes,yes,he did something "stupid". Before everyone starts to get their halo`s all bent out of shape,we know what he did and the price he`s paid.His children.I`m not making excuses for his conduct,(i`ll leave that to all you without sin)but losing your kids would affect most peoples golf game.

Since: Jan 13, 2011
Posted on: March 2, 2011 9:10 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Whatever the problems are, swing change, reps, or confidence, golf needs Tiger back! Without him at the top of his game affects all aspects involved with golf; fans new and old, TV ratings and overall interest, growth of the game both professionally and recreationally, equipment sales, sponsorships for tournaments, and a threat to all professionals when he enters a tournament.

 Presently, the state of his game and mind is still the top story in golf, not what's actually happening on the course involving the rest of the players in the PGA. You would think this would be a perfect opportunity for Mickelson to separate himself from the pack and become the story and torchbearer for golf. Instead he is non existent and there is a revolving door at the top. Phil and most American players feel a since of entitlement and are comfortable, not hungry. European players are just the opposite. They play like it's a job, travel together, and produce great golfers that are taking over the PGA. That's why the Europeans are dominating the Ryder Cup. American golf and the overall state of golf needs a spark... a that flint rock is called Tiger!

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: March 2, 2011 9:05 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Tiger's world has imploded. His deplorable personal conduct has been exposed and his marriage has failed. We've learned that the great guy we saw in his commercials and at p.r. events was nothing more than a sell job. He is still a magnificent golf talent. In fact, in match play against any other player in the world my money would be on Tiger. But with physical talent being equal, it is the mental side of the game that separates the contenders from the pretenders. And in that regard, Tiger is carrying a lot of baggage at the moment. He has no one to blame but himself but imagine yourself front and center on the worldwide golf stage week after week and everyone knows all your dirty little secrets. Winning a tournament? Forget that! It would take an unbelievable amount of fortitude just to step up to the tee to compete. What we know now that maybe we didn't know before is that the man has a conscience.

Since: Jul 6, 2007
Posted on: March 2, 2011 1:18 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

go cubs, you make a good point there.  I mean  he has gone through a ton.  I think his wife has the kids and she went back to her home country.  Its the confidence, the new outlook on life, the priority changes.  Its all that too.  Its only been a year.  I dont know if this has happened yet but someone needs to just sit down and talk to him or something.  He needs his confidence back.  He needs to have something to prove to people.  Prove who he is now, prove how great he is.  Earn some pride.  More people need to learn to forgive.   Confidence is key

Since: Oct 13, 2007
Posted on: March 2, 2011 12:30 am

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

IMO, the problems Tiger is facing has little or nothing to do with his swing - that's why all the contradicting comments. Can anyone think that what Tiger's gone through hasn't had some impact on what's important to him in life? Can anyone think that golf is as important to him as it was before? Is it that much of a stretch of the imagination to think that winning, though important to Tiger, isn't as important as before? Personally, when Tiger steps up to the tee today, how can he be anywhere near the state of mind he would get to before. In short, Tiger must now find a way to win where winning is not the end-all that it was before.  Personally, I think he'll get there when golf becomes fun, when playing the tournament is more important than winning it.

Since: Jul 8, 2009
Posted on: March 1, 2011 11:48 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are wrote:

Back to the original point, Hank Haney would be a virtual unknown if it were not for Tiger Woods.

Hank Haney has been one of the games top instructors for decades. Maybe unknown to you but to the golfing community, he has been around and prominant for quite some time.

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