Where Theres Smoke

By John HawkinsMay 12, 2010, 6:04 am
There was a stretch of about 48 hours last week when Hank Haney and I must have exchanged 70 or 80 text messages, most of which regarded his uncertain future as Tiger Woods' swing coach. A lot of people, including a few of my colleagues at the Golf Channel, scoffed at the latest Tiger-Hank alarms. How many times do you evacuate the building without catching even a whiff of smoke?

This time, however, those close enough could smell something burning. Between the Masters and Quail Hollow, Woods told at least one fellow player he was preparing to move “in a different direction.” Haney himself began joking about the frequent speculation over his job status, especially after some disparaging comments from Johnny Miller, who has made a second career out of successfully blurring the line between analyst and arsonist.
Tiger Woods waves at the Bucik Open
Tiger Woods will now move on to his third professional swing coach. (Getty Images)
Miller has always liked the Butch Harmon swing more than the Hank Haney swing, and a lot of smart golf folks have agreed with Miller. Hank, meanwhile, could lean on his numbers: Woods won 21 times in 45 starts between July 2006 and the end of ’09. He picked up six major titles during the Haney era, each of the four at least once, so if Hank had his naysayers, critics and uninformed demons, he also had a truckload of evidence to prove them wrong.

The us-against-the-world mentality, the cynical eye, the stubbornness, the sarcasm – Tiger and Hank definitely saw life through a similar lens. After Haney announced Monday night that he was ending his six-year association with Woods, Tiger began his terse acknowledgement by saying it was a mutual decision. His praise for the man looking after him was always brief and reserved – don’t think Hank never noticed – as if Eldrick Almighty learned something during his previous partnership with Harmon.

Don’t give anybody too much credit, especially when you’re the world’s best golfer by a couple of miles, because hitting the golf ball is a much harder job than telling someone how to do it.

In a sense, Woods is right. Swing coaches, like Ryder Cup captains and flight attendants, are prone to overestimating the importance of their role as it relates to the big picture. Haney’s presence at PGA Tour events had decreased in recent years, his function becoming one of maintenance more than instruction, and Hank, better than anyone, understood the talent level he was dealing with and the spotlight he was supposed to avoid.

Why would Haney walk away? Perhaps he just got tired of all the peripheral commotion – the media reverberations, the stretches of public disapproval, Woods’ reluctance to elaborate on Hank’s value to the operation. Maybe Haney finally realized he was often blamed when Woods played poorly but turned invisible when Tiger won golf’s biggest championships. To be blunt, I think Woods liked having Haney around but didn’t see him as a necessity when it came to winning golf tournaments. 

John Hawkins appears on Golf Central every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and on the Grey Goose 19th Hole every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

To say both men needed a change is probably an understatement. In recent years, Woods has developed the annoying habit of telling everyone he won’t return to competitive golf until he’s good and ready, but when he does come back and plays poorly, he tells you with a straight face that the process takes time. Last month’s comeback was unquestionably the most scrutinized in the game’s history, giving Woods numerous opportunities to tell people his neck was bothering him.

A month later, fresh off a horrible performance at Quail Hollow and 61 holes of indifferent play at TPC Sawgrass, Woods walks off the golf course and says his neck has been bothering him for a while. Does he owe us an detailed explanation? Not really, but at a time when his credibility is at an all-time low, Tiger might consider a reality check to go with that MRI. His entire career has been shrouded in a cloak of undue secrecy, a manufactured lack of disclosure everyone simply accepted until he began making triple bogeys in his personal life.

Things have changed, although the Dude in the Red Shirt really hasn’t. In his first public appearance after slamming into the fire hydrant, Woods told us he doesn’t get to play by a different set of rules, although one would have a hard time proving that he’s practicing what he preached. Haney got a lot out of Tiger. Woods got a lot out of Hank. With more change on the horizon, it’s best to just leave it at that.

Note: Watch as Jim Gray sits down with Hank Haney for an exclusive, one-on-one interview Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Central.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.