Following Tiger Woods' early exit from the Farmers Insurance Open, speculation has run rampant over his long-term prognosis and competitive future. Hank Haney, Woods' former swing coach, hit the airwaves Friday to dispel a long-held notion over how Woods views his own place in the game, and how he might view it if the entirety of his on-course accomplishments are already in the past.
Haney worked with Woods from 2004 to 2010, and he relayed a story on SiriusXM PGA Tour radio about Woods' response when he questioned Woods' "work ethic" back in 2007.
"He said, 'If my career ended today, I'd be happy with what I've done,'" Haney said. "And I'm just telling you, that's what he told me. So I think he is fine with where he is. If his career ended today, I think he'd feel great about what he has done.
"This thing that the media has drum up that Tiger's No. 1 goal, the No. 1 driving factor in all of Tiger's life is to beat Jack (Nicklaus)'s record - I'm just going to tell you that I was with him for six years, 110 days per year and I never got that feeling," Haney continued. "Never, never did I get that feeling that that was driving him."
Woods withdrew Thursday after completing 11 holes of his opening round at Torrey Pines, again hampered by back pain after withdrawing from two events because of similar injuries in 2014. He spoke earlier this week about limiting his practice as his focus shifts to being a father for his two children, a notion Haney supported - even if it means Woods may never again return to the form with which he dominated the game for the better part of a decade.
"If his priorities have changed, who's to blame him for that? I don't really see that there's anything wrong with that," Haney said. "He's got children, he's got other things he wants to do. If that's the case, that's the case. Clearly, it is. But to expect him to just come back and be the same player, it's just not going to happen."
Woods, 39, has 14 majors to his credit, leaving him four shy of Nicklaus' 18. While Haney oversaw major changes to Woods' swing in the mid-2000s, he believes Woods would own the most recognizable record in the game if he had stuck with the swing that won him his first eight majors from 1997-2002 under Butch Harmon.
"He has been his own worst enemy if you look at all these swing changes he's gone through," Haney said. "If he never changed his swing from Butch Harmon, he probably would have already broke Jack Nicklaus' record. But he did change his swing, and even though he won a higher percentage of tournaments during the time I helped him, it still cost him time because he had to re-group a little bit. It took him a year to start winning again, so this is just time that he keeps wasting."
Woods has been working with new coach Chris Como since November, a partnership that Haney described as an "epic failure." He detailed his view of the path back to relevance facing Woods, who on Monday will slip to his lowest spot in the world rankings in nearly 20 years.
"He's got to get this swing organized so it doesn't hurt his back," Haney said. "Then he's got to deal with the driver issue, then he's got to deal with the short-game issue. Lots of issues to deal with, not much time. Clock's ticking fast now."