Tiger the coach and catching up with Tiger's old coach

By John HawkinsOctober 29, 2012, 3:00 pm

Back in the day – certainly during the pre-Elin years, before the world’s best golfer turned into a rock star – Tiger Woods was somewhat accessible as cultural icons go. While compiling an oral history on the 1999 Ryder Cup in the spring of 2001, Tim Rosaforte and I met Mark O’Meara on the Isleworth practice range for a scheduled interview during Bay Hill week.

Woods was hitting balls alongside his buddy, blasting shot after shot halfway to Ocala with a Cleveland persimmon driver. “Here, hit a few,” he said, tossing me the club, which felt like a telephone pole. I could barely get the ball airborne – the shaft was stiffer than my seventh-grade gym teacher – and when I handed the driver back to him, Tiger began mocking my swing with enough exaggeration to warrant serious laughter.

His imitation of my over-the-top, outside-in lunge came with a half-dozen words of advice. “Hit the inside of the ball,” Woods instructed, and for the next four or five years, I played the best golf of my life. One simple, easy-to-visualize tip. Six words to describe the biggest mechanical difference between pros and amateurs.

So Tiger’s my swing coach. As for one of the guys who used to work with Woods . . .


MORE THAN SIX months have passed since Hank Haney’s revealing portrait of Woods, “The Big Miss,” hit shelves shortly before the Masters. Haney was vilified by many for “outing” his former client, for violating some unwritten confidentiality clause between the two. No question, there wasn’t a hotter or more persistent topic on my live chats throughout the spring.

Woods basically ignored any questions regarding the book around the time of its release, and for all the people who made it a point to say they wouldn’t read it, a ton of people did. “The Big Miss” reached No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, meaning Haney reaped a pretty penny while dealing with the scorn.

“After that,” he says of the NYT listing, “I stopped counting, didn’t even pay any attention. The rest of the [revenue] was just gravy. The biggest criticism I got was from people who said I shouldn’t have written a book, but the No. 1 comment by far was from people who came up and said, ‘I was a Tiger Woods fan before I read it and I’m a bigger fan now.’ They saw what it takes to be him.”

My relationship with Haney dates back to before he began working with Woods (2004), which has nothing to do with my endorsement of the project. Why would anyone make a fuss over a book about a guy who was the target of worldwide derision for months in the wake of his marital transgressions? From Jay Leno to the New York Post and all snarky practitioners in between, Tiger served as a human pinata in the winter of 2009-10.

All those reverberations, which led to a complete overhaul of Woods’ public image, were harpoons compared with Haney’s anecdotes about Tiger’s selfishness and singlemindedness. One key aspect to “The Big Miss” is that the author never passed judgment on Woods – long after so many others who didn’t know him had.

There wasn’t any piling on, and not just because the pile had already dispersed. “I had a guy from (the Tiger Woods Foundation) come up to me and say, 'great book,' and I asked him if I was too hard on him. The guy said no, but I hold no ill regard to anyone who didn’t approve.”

One consistent trend with Tiger: a majority of his partnerships end with a burst of flames and a burned bridge. Former caddie Steve Williams is probably the best example, but for all those who have been excommunicated from the Woods camp over the years, Haney is the one who walked away in this case. People who read the book surely found it far more revealing than mean-spirited. Many of the critics never made it to the foreword.


IF IT HAPPENS, it would qualify as one of the biggest rule changes in sports over the last 25 years – comparable to the NBA’s adoption of a three-point line, certainly as significant as the implementation of an overtime format in college football. In terms of its impact on pro golf, the abolition of anchored putters would have an enormous impact. Sort of like making NHL players go back to wooden sticks.

Given the growing number of top young players using the broomsticks, it’s easy to see at least some of them struggling to make 8-footers on Sunday afternoon.

Rex Hoggard recently reported on this website that the game’s governing bodies expect to reach a verdict on the matter by early December, leaving me to believe some form of legislation will be passed. Six weeks? That doesn’t leave us much time to weigh the pros and cons.

Keep ‘em! Long putters have made a difficult game at least slightly more tolerable for many who have played it for a long time. At the recreational level, there’s no reason to make them illegal – they’re good for business.

Kill ‘em! If anchoring the club doesn’t exactly constitute a competitive advantage, the physical act of putting, which requires fluid and independent movement of the arms and hands, is obviously compromised.

Keep ‘em! It’s not like the guys who first wielded the broomsticks instantly began dominating. No one claimed a major title with an anchored putter until Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA, and that was Jason Dufner’s fault.

Kill ‘em! All these kids bracing the club against their bellies – what’s this game coming to? Weren’t those things supposed to be for old guys?

We could go on, but you get the point. The fact that three of the last five major champions – all 32 or younger – used a crutch to help them clutch the trophy is all the evidence I need. The trend is disturbing, even if the data is at least slightly inconclusive. The U.S. Golf Association and R&A should move to take on this problem now, the better to protect the game’s competitive integrity in the long run.


NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT ... 

• Two competing tournaments in Asia – one an official event on the European Tour with a strong foreign field, the other a soon-to-be-sanctioned gathering on the PGA Tour with nobody but the Only Guy Who Matters. What scares me about the future of pro golf? That pretty much covers it.

Actually, Camp Ponte Vedra’s fall field trip to the Far East doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s the idea that the 2014 season will officially start in October 2013 with a tournament that didn’t even exist three years ago. If the sky’s not falling, why is Chicken Little busting out windows with his 6-iron?

• I was all set to pluck down my $5 and watch the Tiger-Rory challenge match until Hurricane Sandy ordered my internet service to take the rest of the night off. So I settled for the “Morning Drivehighlights package, which showed the two superstars playing for a huge crowd under heavy cloud cover in China. McIlroy beat Woods by one, and the live-stream audience heard Tiger chagrin his wedge play, telling Rory, “I’ve been hitting my short irons so [bleeping] far.” In other words, no news there.

Forgive me for overthinking this, but I’m not exactly sure what it means when someone says, “no one’s bigger than the game.” Really? Two guys just received a cruise ship-sized boatload of money to play 18 holes against each other for the ostensible purpose of promoting golf in a country that already has a ton of golf in its bloodstream. Is this about tomorrow’s health or today’s revenue?

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


Playing with the pros

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President at the Presidents Cup


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Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

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Cart on the green


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Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open


Trump golf properties

Vandalism

Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

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Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

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Reportedly fake TIME covers


Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

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Pros comment on the president

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm