Tiger Faces the Eternal Question


The everlasting question remains this one ' why did he decide to change swing coaches when he had what might have been the most effective swing of all time? Reason screams that there must have been a personality conflict, because there is no way Tiger Woods could have been disappointed in Butch Harmons results.
But that subject is about two years old now. Harmon is gone ' period ' and the chances of him returning are non-existent. And at last, Woods has said what everyone has suspected for quite awhile ' that he is working now with Hank Haney.
Woods held a news conference earlier this week to kick off his Target World Championship, and the conversation drifted once again to the change. Haney, it must be said, is personable, knowledgeable, and has worked with several tour pros ' including Tigers close buddy Mark OMeara. But it boggles the imagination that Woods would discard the coach and the swing that won him 39 tour events and eight majors ' in only seven years time ' to begin anew with a different move at the ball.
There is no question that he is on the verge of resuming his old winning ways. He hit almost 80 percent of the fairways in a recent win in Japan, and that is phenomenal. He has so much talent that he can take the teachings of almost any coach and turn it into a long succession of victories.
He has been under a constant barrage of questions from a disbelieving media throughout the year, journalists who find it inconceivable that he would discard a swing that brought such stratospheric successes. Were it anyone else, it would get only passing mention. But in Tiger, we are talking here about one of the two or three greatest players ever to tee it up.
How long has he been working with Haney? Awhile, said Woods. Does that answer it? It's been this year.
Turns out that at least part of the reason for his reluctance to mention the relationship is because Haney doesnt want the publicity that comes with working for a player of Woods stature. And Hank particularly does not like to be referred to as coach, says Tiger.
He says, I'm your friend, I'm just trying to help you out with your game. When he worked with Mark (OMeara) all these years, he never referred to himself as a coach. He's not on the sidelines pacing back and forth and trying to call plays. That's a coach.
He's always wanted to say, I'm your friend and I'm just trying to help you. He's a friend who's hired to help me.
Theres no question that Haney has solid credentials. And theres no question that Woods made the initial entreaties to him about working on a swing change. Tiger says he first began tinkering around early in the spring.
I felt like something needed to be changed because I wasn't having the results, he said. 'I won at La Costa (in the World Match Play), but I won because I putted great. I hit it all over the map. My iron play was not what it normally is, and I just made everything. Even though I won the tournament, I knew that I wasn't going to do it for the rest of the year, so I had to start changing a few things.
The huge question then becomes, why didnt he see Harmon and get the swing back in order? But Woods was no longer seeing Harmon. The reason? Tiger said Harmon had already imparted the knowledge to work out his own problems. But instead of working out the difficulties himself, Woods went to someone else and crafted a new swing.
And he grew testy as the year dragged on and he was having to confront the issue on almost a tournament-by-tournament basis. But the answers he gave were almost incomprehensible, they were so vague. What was going on with perhaps the greatest player to play this game? It was impossible to tell.
Yeah, just because I had to defend myself after each and every round. I was always getting questions, Singh shot 66 today, what was the difference between your 66 yesterday and 69 today? Why werent you able to shoot a much better score?
At the end of the year, my worst finish was in Ireland - I looked back on the stats, and I looked at my results from Wachovia to the end of the year, and I had two tournaments outside the top 10. That's a pretty good run. For most people that's pretty good. But I had to defend myself the entire time, What's wrong with you? Constantly through the entire year I felt like I was defending myself after each and every (event), so I was getting frustrated with that.
So, Tiger just needs to say, None of your business, and the questions will soon quit coming. But until he does, there are just too many ends here that are left untied. Why did he change to Haney? Is there a conflict with Harmon? Wasnt the swing that he had in 1999, 2000 and 2001 good enough?
He will always have periods of ups and downs ' thats just the game of golf. It doesn't feel good, but it's just part of playing sport, said Woods, and especially in our sport, longevity is just huge here. You've got a career that could literally span - for me, 30 years on the regular tour.
There's no other profession really like that, that you can play at a high level for that long. No, you're going to have periods like that. You can't win every tournament.
Understood. However, the way he went about solving this drought has been perplexing, to say the least. But Ive learned not to doubt that he will come out of it, and that he will be right back up there when he does. Just dont ask me to explain it because, after hearing his explanations all summer, Im still totally in the dark.
Email your thoughts to George White