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.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.