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 29, 2009
Posted on: March 1, 2011 11:03 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Just face facts all you Tiger ball-washers, the dude will never return to his former dominance and glory. Once you been exposed as a fraud, nobody can take you seriously anymore. Yes,my serial sex-addict, you can still hold your top 50 ranking and may win a tourney in 2011, but nobody fears your act anymore. What all golf fans are witnessing is the absolute greatest "fall from grace" in all of sports history. It's getting to the stage that I almost feel sorry for this has-been, but then again, the manner in which he deals with fans and media cannot garner any sympathy. Maybe el tigre can make the cut @ the Masters, where it is "a tradition like one another".

Since: Feb 12, 2009
Posted on: March 1, 2011 9:26 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

How do you know that not a single one of these "fresh, young talents" will ever get close to 71 wins?

At one time Tiger was one of those "fresh young talents".

No one player is bigger than the game.  I am rather tired of all this talk about one player.  The world of golf is going to come to an end.  Nonsense!!

What happend when Hogan,Snead,Palmer,Nicklaus retired.  The game is still going strong.

Nicklaus has the most "majors" wins of 18 with Tiger next at 14.  So if Nicklaus who still holds that record can retire and the game of golf goes on, then Tiger shouldn't create as much of a concern.

Since: Aug 17, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2011 8:24 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Im a fan of Tiger but i know that all of his problems are not his swing.  Learning to win again maybe the one that is hardest to over come.  I really find it hard to believe that all of these people who have made so much money on Tiger woods look for every opportunity to put him down.   When woods is in the field the ratings go up.  I watch golf when tiger isn't playing, but i have to remote close by.  The players who are being talked about so loud now will be replaced by someone eles next year.  All but Tiger, Tiger will be talked about for years to come no matter who his coach is.

Since: Dec 2, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2011 7:31 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Hank Haney like so many other people owes a large portion of their livelihood to Tiger Woods.  Criticism of Tiger is a constant right now, but the reality is that Tiger's success was mainstreamed into society at a level never previously achieved by the PGA.  Tiger brought outsiders in to get excited and watch PGA events.  Both of my grandfathers were avid golfers and as I grew up I would watch the weekly PGA events on weekend afternoons.  I liked Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Tom Leahman, Hale Irwin and Greg Norman was my favorite.  That being said, I never saw any of these golfers take hold of the sport and dominate for years on end.  This changed when Tiger got his bearings on the tour and would string together incredible streaks of success in the tournaments and major tournaments.  It had people excited and remember the great days of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. 

The purses grew to be enormous heading into the 21st century and it was largely because large increase in viewership was spurred on by Tiger Woods and sponsors were quick to tap the increased market.  It would be unfair to credit only Tiger as exciting stretches by David Duval, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, etc. also helped draw and the ESPN sports culture helped boost the popularity in all of the sports the network devoted their hip-hop style highlight reels to.  But Tiger was the largest single reason for the explosion of popularity.

Back to the original point, Hank Haney would be a virtual unknown if it were not for Tiger Woods.  He got his TV show purely because of his connection to Woods.  I'm not doubting he was a great swing coach and he certainly was an important part of Tiger's success, but Tiger has made Hank Haney a celebrity.  Hank Haney is free to continue making comments about Tiger Woods and tweet about his golf game and do interviews that he gets only because he once coached Tiger, but it's ridiculous.  He's biting the hand that feeds.

The same is true for any and all of the PGA tour pros that have called out Tiger.  There isn't a single player out there whose earning potential isn't better now because of the Tiger revolution.  Even Steve Elling who seems to be the head golf journalist for CBSSPORTS has peppered Woods with negative press at every single opportunity.  Would CBSSPORTS even have a full-time staff blogger/writer if it weren't for Tiger Woods?  Considering the ratio of editorial pieces Elling has written about or relating Tiger I doubt it.

Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2011 7:05 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

But maux, I do agree with one thing: I wish they would ignore Woods until he starts playing well again. My opinion right now is he just doesn't care anymore, he still has plenty of money coming in, and a brand new mansion well-stocked with suck dolls to play with no doubt, and the guy just doesn't care. Or else he'd be playing more, and would have met with Foley more than the reported 4 hours a week during the off-season. He's well on the way to making himself irrelevant, and I have no respect for that.

Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2011 7:01 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Well maux, your "huge contingent" was much huger when Woods was playing well. Do you really believe a "huge contingent" was glued to their sets on Sunday to watch two Eurobots play golf? Don't go on my comments or your own gut feeling, check the TV ratings. And by the way: not a single one of these "fresh, young talents" will ever get close to 71 wins. You can't ignore reality forever.

Since: Oct 6, 2006
Posted on: March 1, 2011 6:58 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Sadly enough, I have reached a point where I don't care. I enjoy golf for golf, and not for Tiger Woods. I will pose one question though: Why on earth would you change your swing if it was working and you were dominating others 99 times out of 100?

Since: Aug 17, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2011 6:47 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

Yes the 2009 tournement is the turning point of all this.. Wow... i never thought i would hear someone eles say that... but thats the start of all of it..

Since: Aug 17, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2011 6:44 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are

The fun part about Hank is that he never hit a golf ball in a tournement for Tiger woods.  None of the "teachers" have one for tiger woods. Everyone wants credit for his success and point blame at someone eles when he's in a slump.  Tiger woods is in a slump.  No matter how he got there is not relevent, but when he comes out of it watch out... Slumps happen in all sports to everyone. 

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: March 1, 2011 6:06 pm

Haney as confused about Tiger as we are


While you may think there's a "huge contigent" of golf fans excited about the new crop of talent (and certainly there is a strong field), golf has always been about stars and that's what is bring the ratings into the toilet.  The PGA and tour players need Tiger playing well or will suffer considerably financially.  Tiger is the story and will continue to be this year.

While the world may move on without Tiger, the PGA will move; abiet at a much slower pace with huge ratings and attendance drops along with losses of corporate money.  Your "huge contigent" of fans just doesn't translate.

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